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Apple Updates iTunes With HD Movie Rentals

Before the update, HD movies could only be rented through the Apple TV set-top box.

Apple on Monday released an upgrade of its iTunes software, adding support for renting high-definition movies.

ITunes 8.1.1 also provides a number of bug fixes, including issues related to syncing the software with the iPhone and iPod Touch. But the HD content support fills an important void.

Before the update, HD movies could only be rented through the Apple TV, a set-top box that makes it possible to watch online movies and TV shows on a home television. The software update expands that service, so people can rent HD content through iTunes.

ITunes 8.1.1 requires Mac OS X 10.4.0 or later, or Mac OS X 10.5 or later. The file is 66 MB and is available in 17 languages.

Apple last month said it would offer HD movies for rent or purchase through the iTunes store and promised that future movies would be available in HD format 30 days after their release online. Apple rents HD movies for $5, which is $1 more than standard-definition content, and sells them for $20.

Apple has been offering prime-time television shows on iTunes in HD format from all four major networks since the fall of 2008. Movies and TV shows downloaded from iTunes can be played on an Apple Mac, iPhone, and some iPod models, as well as a Windows PC.

Apple isn't alone in trying to entice people with HD content. Netflix and Blockbuster also offer HD movies online.

Video viewing on the Web is rising steadily, but purchases and rentals of films and TV shows remain a small slice of the overall market. In January, U.S. Internet users viewed 14.8 billion online videos, a 4% increase from December, according to Web metrics firm ComScore. Google's YouTube was the clear leader, accounting for almost 43% of the video watched on the Web. The second largest, Fox Interactive Media, accounted for only 3.7%.

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