Thursday, January 17, 2008

Movie rentals coming from iTunes

Apple on Tuesday announced iTunes Movie Rentals, a new feature of the online iTunes Store that enables users to download movies and watch them for a short time rather than having to buy them. Movie rentals will be priced at $3.99 for new releases and $2.99 for older films. Hi-Def movies will cost a buck more.

The new feature uses iTunes 7.6, a new release of Apple's software that's available for download from Apple's Website. It also requires an update to QuickTime version 7.4.

Apple got support from all the major movie studios, including Fox, WB, Disney, Paramount, Universal and Sony, along with Touchstone, Miramax, MGM, New Line and Lions Gate. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that the new service will launch shortly, and by the end of February will contain over 1,000 movies. Movies will become available for rental on iTunes 30 days after they are released on DVD.

iTunes Movie Rentals are tied to the Digital Rights Management technology used by Apple for other content purchased from the iTunes store. You can download movies and watch them from a Mac, PC or Apple TV. Movies downloaded on a Mac or PC can be transferred to an iPod, iPhone, or Apple TV. Jobs indicated that you can transfer movies downloaded on Macs or PCs to other devices while you're in the middle of watching it, letting you pick up where you left off.

Movies downloaded directly via Apple TV, in contrast, will only be playable on Apple TV. Apple VP Greg Joswiak described standard-definition Apple TV movie rentals as "DVD quality," while non-Apple TV rentals are downloaded in a "near-DVD quality" format compatible with Macs, PCs, iPods, and iPhones. High-definition rentals are full 720p films with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This is not as good as Blu-ray 1080p.

After downloading a movie, you have up to 30 days to start watching it. Once you begin watching, you have 24 hours to watch it as many times as you want. Jobs said that users with modern Internet connections will be able to begin watching rentals within 30 seconds of initiating the download. (info from

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