While it denies interest in such plans, Apple's next online media move may be to make a movie service similar to iTunes, speculation suggests.

Technology writer Robert Cringley declared this morning that the Mac mini and Apple's soon-to-debut H.264 video codec are key to Apple's launch of such a service.

"Jobs denies interest in video, citing the dominance of cable companies, but then he always denies right up until the moment he changes his mind, and that moment is coming," he claims.

While admitting to no insider information, Cringley says: "Everyone seems to think the Mini is a media PC, and it has the basic characteristics of one. Though the box has no TV tuner, Apple does offer an analogue adaptor...Still, there were hints in that Macworld presentation of something bigger to come, and the Mac Mini is a big part of that."

He states that Apple needs Mac OS X 10.4 (which supports H.264) on market before it can launch a service, and points to the arrival on the Macworld Expo keynote stage of Sony's CEO.

He looks at the importance of HDTV, and guesses that Apple's first move may be to quietly buy an online movie distributor, such as iFlicks.