It was really just a matter of time.
Published reports in both Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal claim that News Corp.'s
Steve Jobs can't be happy, as he was probably saving this little nugget for next month's MacWorld conference. It's also just desserts for Jobs after he settled to shut down a popular Apple rumor site last week. You can take down ThinkSecret.com, but it only means a chatty Rupert Murdoch will take its place.
Details of the Fox deal will no doubt be fleshed out in living color during MacWorld, but for now, we can only speculate on how digital video rentals will impact the rest of the industry.
Conventional providers of temporary celluloid probably aren't too worried. Amazon.com
Apple's success in video sales has also never approached its mastery of digital music. Maybe it's that the files are too big or that the iPod -- and now iPhone -- crowd is too mobile to spend time staring at a small screen. The uncharacteristic failure of Apple TV is another feather in that dunce cap. However, if one of the stumbling blocks for video through iTunes is price, offering rentals at a fraction of the purchased price will definitely help.
Netflix and Blockbuster shouldn't assume that this will be a non-event. Since both companies have been beefing up their own digitally delivered offerings, they're already positioning themselves to compete if instant gratification -- or at least near-instant gratification -- is the new law of the land.
Unfortunately for Netflix and Blockbuster, though, digital delivery levels the playing field. The network of regional distribution centers -- and in Blockbuster's case, its fleet of thousands of stores -- has helped the two vanquish less committed entrants like Wal-Mart
In short, tomorrow is coming anyway, but now it may be coming a little sooner than expected.
A few more Apple dippers for you:
Netflix and Amazon.com have been recommended by David Gardner for his Stock Advisor subscribers. Wal-Mart is an active stock pick for Inside Value newsletter subscribers. Like rentals because they're short-term commitments? Check out either service for the next 30 days for free with a trial subscription offer, you swinging single, you.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a Netflix subscriber -- and shareholder -- since 2002. He owns shares in TiVo. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.