Apple has finally made iTunes movie rentals official, as Steve Jobs made the announcement in his MacWorld 2008 keynote address. The studios taking part in the festivities include Disney, MGM, Touchstone, Miramax, Lions Gate, Warner Brothers, Fox, Paramount, Universal, and Sony. Rentals will be available starting today alongside an iTunes 7.6 update, and you can expect 1,000 movies to be available be the end of February. Rentals will cost $2.99 USD for a standard movie, $3.99 for new releases. If you want the HD version, it will cost you $1.00 more. You have 30 days to begin watching the movie, and once you’ve started, you get 24 hours to watch it as many times as you like. Rented movies can be transferred to a video-capable iPod or iPhone, and can also be viewed on Apple TV.
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Here are the highlights from today’s Apple Keynote, titled “It’s Showtime”:
- Apple has announced a newly enhanced iPod. The standard iPod gets a 60% brighter screen with brightness control, 3.5 hours of video playback (up from 2 hours), gapless playback, and newly designed iPod headphones. The larger version of the iPod will do 6.5 hours of video playback. The
60GB30GB iPod will sell for $249, while the 80GB model will sell for $349. Available today.
- New games for iPod: The iPod now has purchasable games, which include Bejeweled, Cubis 2, Zuma, Pac Man, Texas Hold ‘em, Vortex, and more. They can be purchased in iTunes for $4.99 each. Games will also work on older 5th generation iPods.
- New software updates for iPod: There is now a quick scrolling feature using letters, which allows you to jump to anywhere in your library virtually instantly and with more precision.
- iPod nano: Second generation iPod nano announced. It looks more like a tiny iPod mini, with an aluminum enclosure for the $149 2GB model, while the larger $199 4GB model sports green, silver, blue, and pink. Finally, the $249 8GB model comes in black. All have a 24-hour battery life. There are also new chargers, lanyards, and armbands. All three iPod nano models are available today.
- iPod shuffle: The iPod shuffle also goes 2ng generation today. Sporting a 12-hour battery life, the shuffle now is about the size of the Apple Remote, making it the world’s smallest MP3 player. It has a metal body with a white click wheel, and a 1GB capacity. Available in October for $79.
- iTunes 7: Library now breaks up and separates different forms of media, and also provides sections for the Store itself and for devices. Apple will now provide album art for any music in your library, even if not purchased through iTunes. The 2006 NFL season will be available for purchase, and video resolution is now bumped up to 640x480 (up from 320x240) in H.264 encoding. Gapless playback is supported in iTunes 7. Even better, you can now sync you iPod content to a second computer!
- iTunes Movies: Apple is announcing that they are adding movies to the iTunes Music Store. Starting today, you can purchase films from Disney, Pixar, Touchstone, and Miramax (all of these are Disney owned.) Most titles will cost $9.99. You can pre-order new releases for $12.99 (or pay that price for the first week) - after that, they jump to $14.99. You can pre-order Disney’s Cars today.
Movies are at near-DVD quality in 640x480 resolution, and you can start watching the movie while it downloads in the background. As for sound, movies have Dolby surround audio. Parental control allows you to block or allow movies by MPAA rating. There are 75 movies available for purchase, and more will be added on a weekly basis. The Movie Store is strictly for the US store for now, but
will goApple hopes to take it International in 2007.
- One Last Thing: Wireless Set-top Box: In the first quarter of 2007, Apple will be releasing a wireless set-top box for the television. About half the size of a Mac mini, the box will have integrated USB, 802.11 wireless antennas, HDMI ports, optical audio out, and component video out. Apple is calling it iTV, although that name may not be final. Obviously, it’s meant to allow you to stream the video content on your PC to your television, using an interface that seems like an upgraded Front Row, controlled by the Apple Remote. Video startup is instant, and video looks great - close to DVD quality. Expect high-resolution artwork and movie text. The same videos will play on iTunes, your iPod, and now, your TV. The box also allows you to view trailers and other iTunes content directly from the Internet. Steve plays The Incredibles, which is curiously not in 640x480, but rather in widescreen high definition format. A sign of things to come? Apple says the device will work in conjunction with iTunes on both PC and Mac, and will sell for $299 USD, bringing Apple to your den, living room, car, and pocket.
- John Legend: Steve Jobs closed the event by introducing John Legend, telling everyone that without the artists, none of this means anything. Legend came out and sang for everyone.
That’s it! You can now see all the updates on Apple.com reflecting everything that was talked about today. New iPods, new iTunes, and a lack of Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros.