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Studios join Apple's movie-rental service

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces the Macbook Air while giving the keynote address at Apple MacWorld Conference in San Francisco.

By Michelle Quinn, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs may have solved the two biggest stumbling blocks facing digital movie downloads: A lack of things to watch, and reluctance by consumers to fire up their computers to watch a film.

Jobs announced a long-rumored movie rental service through its iTunes Store at the Macworld Conference & Expo. But he added the surprise that the service, which launched today, included films from each of the major studios.

Jobs said iTunes should have more than 1,000 films by the end of February, with new releases available 30 days after the DVD is released. Consumers will pay $2.99 for older films and $3.99 for new releases, then get 30 days to watch it on their computers, iPods or iPhones.

But what about the TV? Jobs also announced a new version of Apple TV, the set-top box that hasn't sold well since it launched last January. He admitted as much in his keynote presentation but said the newest version would come with a twist: people wouldn't have to turn on their computers to buy or rent videos, then transfer them to the TV. Apple TV will soon let users get videos through a menu on the TV screen.

Apple also cut the device's price to $229, from $299.

"I think we got it all together here," Jobs said. "There is no computer involved here. They are doing it on their couch on their wide screen TV."

Industry analysts said the developments turned Apple into even more of a central player in the future of digital entertainment.

"This is to the movie and the TV industries what iTunes has been to music," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research. "It can be disruptive to a lot of industries over the long run."

One studio executive said Apple's new products remove the barriers to digital distribution.

"This is going to be one of those milestones when you look back on the growth of digital media," said Thomas E. Lesinski, president of digital entertainment at Paramount Pictures. "This is one of those inflection points, where you've got an elegant solution, a well-known platform and now you've got six studios' content available."

Jobs also wowed the crowd of Macworld attendees with the MacBook Air, a new laptop that he called "the world's thinnest." Priced at $1,799, the computer is so thin that Jobs demonstrated it fitting comfortably in an inter-office mailing envelope. It comes with 5 hours of battery life and a full sized keyboard and a 13.3-inch screen. It will start shipping in two weeks.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-appl...a-home-business

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