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Tuesday, January 08, 2008, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)

Apple's preps iTunes 7.6 with support for movie rentals

Apple Inc. at the Macworld conference next week will show off a new version of its iTunes jukebox software that bundles support for a digital movie rental service slated for an introduction at the same time, AppleInsider has been able to confirm.

Currently labeled iTunes 7.6, the software will let iTunes Store shoppers buy into the new rental service, which is expected to serve up digital movie downloads from the catalogs of motion picture studios Walt Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, and others.

Reports have suggested that individual rentals will fetch between $2 and $5 depending on their stature, but last only 24 hours from the time they're downloaded to the time they'll expire and become unplayable.

Apple's foray into digital rentals may also be complemented by a move on the opposite end of the spectrum, whereby studios participating in the iTunes rental service will also begin shipping physical copies of their movies with iPod-compatible versions included on the same DVD.

A tipster speaking to MacRumors recently noted that his copy of Family Guy - Blue Harvest arrived early and that an iPod-compatible version of the flick — labeled "Fox Digital Copy file" — was included on the disc.

The Twentieth Century Fox film is due for release on January 15th, the same day Apple chief executive Steve Jobs is expected to introduce the iTunes movie rental service to a crowd of thousands at the Macworld Expo and Conference in San Francisco.

Like the rental service, iPod-comptable digital film files that will be included on future DVD discs will also require the presence of iTunes 7.6.