The Netflix Invasion
The list of Netflix-ready devices continues to grow. Here’s a breakdown of what is already available, and a glimpse at what's to come.
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March 10, 2009 by Ben Hardy

Netflix burst on the scene in the late 90s as a DVD rent-by-mail company. A few years ago, Netflix launched the “Watch Instantly” feature which allows subscribers to stream movies on their computers.

Now, through partnerships with various CE manufacturers, Netflix is giving its 10 million subscribers the ability to Watch Instantly right on their television. Whether you are looking for a set-top box, gaming console, blu-ray player or TV, odds are you can find one that’s Netflix-ready.

Netflix in a Box
The Roku Digital Video Player, also called the “Netflix Player by Roku” made a huge splash when it hit the market in May of 2008. Retailing at a bargain $99, the Digital Video Player flew off the shelves, and has since earned a spot in Time Magazine’s Top 10 Gadgets of 2008 as well as garnering plaudits from the Wall Street Journel, CNET, and WIRED. “The Roku sold out within two weeks of first being available,” said Steve Swasey, vice president of Corporate Communications for Netflix.

The Roku DVP has one advantage over all the other Netflix-ready devices: built in wireless. Some households may find connecting an Ethernet cable to the back of a device sitting next to the TV to be an inconvenience, particularly if the home’s modem is located elsewhere. When asked how streaming Netflix wirelessly as opposed to wired might impact video quality, Roku’s Tim Twerdahl, vice president of consumer products, had this to say: “When the DVP prepares content for streaming, it determines the network speed and optimizes the playback so users will not have to experience the dreaded “buffering” interruption.”

The Roku also tags every ten seconds of content with a still image, so when users fast forward or rewind Netflix content they can do so contextually, with an idea as to where they are and where they are going. Not bad for a hundred-dollar box. Just recently, Roku announced that users can now browse through Amazon’s wide selection of PPV and On-Demand titles.

The other Netflix-ready box would be the Xbox 360, which retails for twice the cost of the Roku DVP at $199. Xbox 360 owners need an Xbox Gold LIVE membership ($49.99 per year) in addition to the Netflix subscription in order to stream Netflix content from the Xbox 360 to the television. Xbox 360 users can also browse the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for games and videos, including TV episodes, video shorts, and feature-length films. A separately purchased Xbox Wireless Network Adapter ($99) enables wireless connectivity with the Xbox 360. In early February Netflix announced that over 1 million Xbox LIVE users had activated the Netflix feature on their Xbox 360. 

Netflix the Blu-ray Way
Two Blu-ray players on the market pull double duty as connected Netflix streaming devices: the Samsung BD-P2500 ($399.99) and the LG BD300 ($349). Both units connect to the Internet via Ethernet, enabling Netflix viewing and firmware updates, as well as opening up the world of BD-Live (Samsung’s player is BD-Live 2.0-ready).

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Ben Hardy - Contributing Writer
Between watching re-runs of the The Jetsons and convincing his Insteon and Z-Wave controls to get along, Ben Hardy is immersed in the world of home automation, home control, and home networking.

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