Apple announced iTunes 7.6 during Tuesday’s keynote. The biggest addition is support for iTunes movie rentals, a feature long rumored and a potential Netflix Watch Now/Blockbuster/Vudu killer.
Aesthetically, iTunes 7.6 looks almost identical to 7.5, but the real biggies are what it adds support for. Read along to find out what’s going on under the hood.
The iTunes store has been refreshed with movies from most of the largest Hollywood studios. It’s incredibly easy to download films, either to rent or to watch. The movies are, however, encoded with a special version of Apple’s FairPlay DRM software that restricts the amount of time you have to watch a film. Once you download the movie to rent ($2.99 or $3.99 depending upon the title), you have 30 days to watch the movie before it expires. However, once you start it, you have just 24 hours to continue it, or you have to rent it again.
Rented movies can be transferred to iPhones, iPods, or other Apple portables that support iTunes content playback. Apple had always been opposed to the idea of “rental systems” in the past, because they didn’t think that people really wanted to “rent” their music. However, it seems like the less than stellar movie sales may have played a part in Apple’s decision to cave on the issue.
The new rental system, coupled with the iTunes store availability on the new software version of the AppleTV really might be the way for Apple to invade the living room once and for all. Only time will tell how successful this new system will become, but I have a feeling that Apple may have another hit on its hands, and the ease of use is really unparalleled.