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HD movie purchases coming to Vudu

Vudu becomes the first video-on-demand set-top box to allow the purchase of high-def movies--but only a handful of independent films will be available.

Transsiberian poster

Most video-on-demand set-top boxes let users rent or buy downloadable movies. But high-definition movies have been rental-only, thanks to limitations from the movie studios that own the content. But owners of Vudu's on-demand box will now be able to buy a limited selection of HD movies from independent studios Firstlook, Magnolia, and Kino.

The initial roster of 50 high-def movies includes such titles as "Transsiberian" and the Oscar-winning "Man on Wire," and they'll be offered simultaneously with the DVD releases. (Viewers can opt to buy either the "instant HD" or the much more impressive HDX version of the movie, and rentals will still be available.)

Vudu is hoping that these niche offerings will pave the way for the major studios to flip the switch on HD purchases of their more mainstream fare at some point in the future.

What does it mean? The HD movie purchases offers Vudu another nice bragging right in its competition with Apple TV, but little more.

On a personal note, after building up significant VHS and then DVD movie libraries, I've moved to an almost entirely all-rental model in my viewing habits, so buying downloadable movies doesn't appeal to me--even if Vudu can get the bigger studios to sign onto this plan. And if I did want to invest in a keeper, I'm still going to feel more comfortable with Blu-ray Discs than with having movies locked into a proprietary hard-drive format.

But that's just my opinion. I'm still a Vudu fan, thanks to the excellent video quality of its HDX movies and the breadth of its 1,400-strong HD movie library. I'm just happy sticking with rentals.

What do you guys think?