Downloading movies to watch on your personal computer has been a viable option for several years, but getting those downloaded flicks to play on your TV has been problematic. I thought Apple TV would provide an easy solution, but it's been described as one of the worst tech products of the year and even its defenders acknowledge that it's limited in its capabilities -- it's more for piping your own music, images and videos to play on your TV. That may change if Apple makes it possible to rent movies directly from the device, but the battle for control of your TV is just heating up.

Online rental power Netflix has announced that they are working with LG Electronics to "develop a set-top box for consumers to stream movies and other programming from the Internet to HDTV's." Delivery is expected in the second half of 2008 with more details expected to be announced at the Consumer Electronics Show next week. The statement claims that more than 6,000 movies and TV episodes will be available to be "delivered instantly" over the Internet, but also indicates that high definition content is a future component of their plan. In reporting on the press release, the Associated Press notes that similar devices from Apple and Vudu run from $299-$399, but no prices have been announced for the Netflix/LG box.

To my mind, the competition for Apple TV and Netflix/LG is more with set top boxes from cable and satellite providers than with personal computers. Apple TV and Netflix/LG both require up-front payment for still another box in your living room, while cable and satellite providers do not. Netflix says subscribers will have a certain amount of access, depending on their subscriber plan, while everyone else appears to have a pay-per-view model. Potentially, though, Apple and Netflix could offer much greater choice of content. Still, no one's talking much about offering more high-def content this year. Will that wait until the great "analog to digital switch" next year for broadcasters and content providers?