has begun selling movie downloads, beating Apple's entry into the market. Amazon last night launched Amazon Unbox, which allows customers to buy and download TV shows at $1.99 (£1) per episode, and most movies at $7.99 to $14.99. Movies can also be rented for as little as $3.99.

Titles available at present include such blockbusters as "V for Vendetta" and "Brokeback Mountain", comprising content from seven major studios - Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Universal Studios, Warner Bros, Lionsgate and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

"Directionally it's the right kind of thing for them to be doing," said Global Crown Capital analyst Martin Pyykkonen. "From a margin standpoint this is a much better business than anything they've done before."
As for TV shows, the company claims that those will be available for download the day after they are aired, and should start playing around five minutes after starting the process.

Apple is expected to launch their movie download service with major aplomb as early as next week. An Apple event next Tuesday, dubbed "It's showtime", is expected to rival a major new movie service in conjunction with revamped iPods. Wall Street believes something extra special is being planned for this.