As reported by Variety (and just about every tech site on the planet), Steve Jobs' keynote address at MacWorld 2008 on Tuesday morning included details on Apple's new movie rental plan. The gist of it is that Apple TV users will be able to rent and download movies from all the major Hollywood studios directly from iTunes. The details, though, are where things get squiggy.

As our sister site Engadget promptly pointed out, while the firmware for Apple TV is changing, the hardware is not, so built-in limitations remain. Example: HD resolution is limited to 1,280 by 720. Also, DD 5.1 sound is not available with all HD rentals. In addition, HD movie rentals will only be available through and on the Apple TV, and the rental price only covers playing the movie on the Apple TV -- no moving it to your iPod for free.

The "new releases" rental price is $3.99 for standard-def and $4.99 for high-def; "library" titles are a dollar cheaper for each format. About 100 HD movies will be available for rental starting in February. You'll have 30 days to watch the rental, but once you start watching, you have to finish within 24 hours. New releases will not be available until 30 days after the DVD release date. Still, Apple promises "instant movie gratification" because downloading starts immediately and with standard-def movies you can start watching "in seconds."

To me, this is very much Apple's version of "On Demand" programming for cable and satellite systems. On my local system, I pay $3.99 for standard-def movies, $4.99 for high-def and $1.99 for "library" titles (older films in standard-def). The rental period of 24 hours starts immediately. In order to get that, I have to pay a monthly equipment rental fee for a cable box. With Apple TV, you pay your hardware fee up front: $229.00 (for a 40gb box) or $329.00 (for a 160gb box). If you rent a limited number of movies and don't have/want cable or satellite, this could be a good deal.

Is the idea of renting through downloading sounding any more appealing to you now? Or will you stick with an online rental service or the good old neighborhood video store?