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A first look at iTunes' movie service

Along with a raft of iPods, Apple launched its online movie service last night. So as I write, I am downloading a copy of National Treasure, starring Nicholas Cage. Here are a few first impressions.

Speed

Downloading is a slow-going process. My 1.49GB movie's been downloading for about 60 minutes now, and I've only got about one-third of the movie captured. Granted, I don't have the speediest DSL connection in the world (my DSL is quite sad, actually) – and every tech journalist and Apple fiend in the country is probably trying to access iTunes right now. (In fact, the whole service has been rather poky all morning.) But still, if you're considering using this service, you better leave yourself some extra time to see how fast your connection can blast through downloads.

Pricing

Compared with other online-movie services, the cost isn't offensive. Flicks are either $9.99 (about £5.30) or $12.99 (£7), with the latter price reserved mostly for new releases. Hey, at least they cost less than the DVDs, which is a step in the right direction.

Variety

With 75 movies at launch, and only the Disney catalogue to choose from, selection is limited to a few big movies (Pirates of the Caribbean, Flightplan), a couple of classics (The English Patient, Sixth Sense, Good Will Hunting, O Brother, Where Art Thou?), some good kiddie flicks (Disney and Pixar animated films), and uh, other stuff. If you're planning to take a trip and want some entertainment, you'll likely find something you want to watch. If you're looking for the latest releases, buy the DVD.

But remember: Apple's TV service also started with just a few good shows, but has got much bigger since. Let's hope the movie studios allow the same thing to happen here.

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