Movie Rentals Hit iTunes (Plus, a New Apple TV)
Well, we all knew it was coming. The rumors have been circulating for so long that it's more been a matter of when rather than if.
At today's MacWorld keynote, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that he has finally struck a deal to put movie rentals on iTunes. Pretty much all the major movie studios --Touchstone, MGM, Miramax, Lions Gate, Fox, WB, Walt Disney, Paramount, Universal, and Sony -- have all signed on to provide rentals at $2.99 for older films and $3.99 for new releases.
Like pretty much every other online movie service and Vudu, the iTunes movie rental service, which launches today, gives you 30 days to watch a chosen film, but after you hit play, you have just 24 hours to complete the movie before your rental expires. The files can be transfered to iPods and Apple TVs, though, so you can start watching the movie while it's still downloading your computer's iTunes, then copy it over to your iPod (or Apple TV) and finish watching it somewhere else later that day.
Apple also unveiled Apple TV Take 2, which essentially amounts to a new interface for the Apple TV that makes it independent of a computer. The update lets you access the full iTunes store directly from your Apple TV and rent DVD-quality movies to watch on your TV (or buy music and audiobooks to listen to on your TV/home theater system). And, for just a dollar more, you can get HD quality video and 5.1 surround sound. The Apple TV will still sync to your PC or Mac, if you have one. The revamped Apple TV ships in two weeks for $229.
The best part is that current Apple TV users aren't left out in the cold. Jobs admitted that Apple hadn't exactly hit the nail on the head with the original Apple TV, and is offering the new UI and features as a free download to all current Apple TV users. For once, some of Apple's early adopters are getting taken care of!
So, does this mean you should forget Blu-ray and just pick up a new Apple TV? Maybe, though we're going to reserve our final judgment until we find out whether the HD offered is highest-quality 1080p or not (as with Blu-ray) and if every one of the 1,000 or so films Apple is promising to have available by year's end is also available in HD.
That said, we won't say don't rent movies from iTunes. We've got iPods just like everyone else, and we'd be dumb not to partake of this latest offering from Apple. We just want to see if Apple really has a decent selection of HD movies, since no one else -- other than the Blu-ray camp (and only recently) -- seems to have pulled this off.
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