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May 28, 2008

Netflix streaming to your TV


Netflix and Roku recently announced a little $99 box that connect to your TV and enables Netflix subscriber to stream videos right to their TV.  Best of all, Netflix is offering unlimited streaming along with any subscription plan over $8.99 per month.  I have to say, I think Netflix and Roku really nailed this one.  The price-point is perfect, I think many Netflix subscribers won't think twice about buying one.  Also, even if Netflix's streaming inventory is a bit small right now, it's only going to get bigger, plus streaming is FREE.  The big surprise for me was that the Netflix Player doesn't offer the core feature that Roku pioneered: streaming your iTunes music to your stereo.  I won't be at all surprised if future versions of the Netflix player allow you to browse and play your iTunes library on your TV and audio setup.  Which will further pit the Netflix player against the Apple TV.  For more on this read on...

The device has already drawn a lot of praise and a lot of comparison with Apple's Apple TV.  There are a few big differences between the two devices.  First and foremost, the Apple TV offers a 40GB or 160GB hard drive for storing music and movies, and the Netflix player lacks a hard drive entirely.  So the Netflix player can only be used to play streaming video, you can't stockpile a bunch of movies on it like with the Apple TV.  Also, because it only streams it can't fast-forward or rewind a movie as quickly or seemlessly as a downloaded movie on a Apple TV.  However, if you just use it to watch a movie from beginning to end the Netflix player reportedly works quite well.

The Apple TV also offers a number of functions the Netflix Player lacks, like the ability to play music and view photos from computers on the network.  However, it's worth pointing out that Roku also has made products which offer those features.  So I won't be at all surprised if future versions of the Netflix player offer those features.  Hopefully, also Roku will also offer a Netflix Player with a built-in DVD player so we all don't have to deal with another box and another remote.

But by far, the biggest difference between the two is the price.  The base model Apple TV costs $229, and that doesn't include any movie rentals.  That means the Netflix Player AND a year of the basic subscription (at $8.99 per month) is cheaper than the Apple TV.  And with the Netflix option offers DVD rentals along with unlimited streaming videos...

Hopefully, this will encourage (or enable) Apple to change their strategy and finally offer a subscription model for movies, and perhaps even offer a free subscription plan with the purchase of an Apple TV.


The Fall Xbox 360 update that comes with the new dashboard will also allow you to do the same thing with Netflix.

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