Macworld in San Francisco has kicked off with Apple chief executive Steve Jobs unveiling a new online movie rental service that has the backing of all of Hollywood’s major studios and threatens to change the way consumers access videos over the internet. The movies will be available to be downloaded via the iTunes web site. However it is not known when the service will be rolled out in Australia or the cost. However it is tipped that we could see the service by mid 2008.
A slight hurdle is that new releases will not be available as quickly as they are on DVD. Mr. Jobs said movies will be available 30 days after they are released on videos. Consumers can watch the videos on their computer, iPods, iPhones or on their television with the Apple TV device.
Touchstone, Miramax, Lionsgate, New Line, Fox, Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal Sony and MGM have all signed on to back the service.
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New release movies will be available for US$3.99 while older fils will cost US$2.99. Consumers will have 30 days to begin watching a movie after “renting” it from iTunes and the movie file will stop working after 24 hours.
The service is available in the U.S. today while Apple prepares for an international launch including Australia later this year.
To complement the new iTunes movie rental service, Mr. Jobs revealed Take 2, the upgraded Apple TV video streaming device which doesn’t require a computer connection to rent HD and DVD quality videos. HD movies will cost $4.99 and there are currently about 100 titles available.
Mr. Jobs also said Apple has sold more than five million copies of the Leopard operating system for Macs in its first three months on the market. Almost 20 per cent of Mac OS X users have upgraded to the new Leopard system.
The Apple CEO announced that Apple’s iPhone has sold four million units since going on sale last June and that consumers are gobbling the touchscreen cell phones up at a 20,000 per day clip. In first quarter shipping, the iPhone was the second most popular smart phone in the U.S. market – behind RIM’s BlackBerry devices – with 19.5 per cent of the market, Mr. Jobs said according to various reports.
Although Apple is due to release a software development kit in February which will allow third party developers to create new applications for the iPhone, Mr. Jobs said Apple would be releasing new software for the iPhone today which will enable users to customize the home screen of their iPhone among other things.
The first new product Mr. Jobs unveiled was The Time Capsule, a backup hard drive designed to work with the Time Machine functions embedded in the Mac operating systems. A 500 GB version will cost $299 and a one terabyte version will retails for $499, according to Ars Technica.
Five new applications will be added to the iPod Touch, Mr. Jobs said. They include links to mail, stocks, notes, weather and maps. The applications will come standard on all new iPod Touch devices, but existing users will need to pay a $20 upgrade fee.
Apple’s iTunes store continues to be a boon for the company. Mr. Jobs announced the online music store last week sold its four billionth song. Twenty million songs were sold on Christmas Day, a new record.
Mr. Jobs said that 125 million television shows and seven million movies have been sold through iTunes, both well below the company’s expectations.
About 4,000 people are expected to take in the speech, which is being held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California.
In the past Mr. Jobs has used Apple’s annual Macworld convention to launch some of the companies marquee products including the iPhone, Apple TV and Mac Mini.
Experts are anticipating this year’s announcement will include the unveiling of a new ultraslim notebook computer, a 16-gigabyte iPhone as well as a new movie rental service available through the online iTunes store.