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Gentlemen, start your televisions…

News came today that Movielink - the online venture that offers tediously-long downloads of films more easily seen via Netflix – had landed Fox – a longtime hold out. The news went everywhere, but not reported is why we should necessarily care. I am here to tell you, we probably shouldn’t. At least, not until tomorrow morning.
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Let’s leave aside the dispiriting fact that Lucasfilm isn’t going to release the latest “Star Wars” online for anyone.

The real question here is whether the movie business can avail itself of the same opportunities that the TV business can. Sure, a TV show like “Lost” on an iPod? Why not? You missed it last night; why not watch it on the bus on the way to the office?

But watching a movie on the family’s home computer is about as practical for most homes as using Mom’s curling iron to heat up a Hot Pocket. (Kids: Please, don’t try this at home; have some crudite instead. What’s a crudite? Oh, nevermind.)

And yet: Tonight isn’t just the night that Twentieth Century Fox hopped into bed with Movielink – it’s also the night that kicks off the explosive growth of Internet-connected television.

That is, Microsoft , at midnight tonight, is releasing the Xbox 360. In the morning, there won’t just be a lot of exhausted, carpal tunnel victims playing “Halo” online – there will have begun a new era of “Swiss Army Knife” consoles that connect the TV to the internet, and the movies to your TV.

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So, go ahead and yawn about Movielink for now. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Around 18 months from now, Netflix will be remembered as the Pet Rock of this decade.

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