Google is in talks with Hollywood executives to bring movie rentals to YouTube, according to the Financial Times (subscription needed). This move puts the search giant on a collision course with Apple.
The idea is simple. People are familiar with YouTube, and are happy to while away the hours watching a cat ride a Roomba or a panda sneezing. YouTube is also everywhere - desktops, notebooks, and critically, on mobile devices such as the iPhone. YouTube has enormous reach. Now Google wants to leverage this reach, hoping that people will pay for the privilege of being entertained.
Now, the question isn't whether people are willing to pay to be entertained, rather will they pay Google/YouTube to be entertained when a) there's so much free stuff on YouTube. and b) they're used to paying other companies to be entertained.
One thing that's interesting here is the Google/Apple link. YouTube was one of the first third-parties to see an app on the iPhone, and a built-in one at that, but thanks to evolving web standards, you can how view YouTube videos through the browser, thus taking a lot of power away from Apple. Google used Apple to attract a new breed of viewer to YouTube, and is now in a position where it doesn't need to rely on Apple for those users to continue to consume YouTube content.
Add rentals to the mix, and all of a sudden Google and Apple, rather than being allies, are on a collision course. Not only that, but if these pay-per-view services actually work in a mobile sense, Google will then be able to offer iPhone users something that Apple itself cannot. Never underestimate the power and appeal of instant gratification.