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Movies The Internet Media

Netflix Now Offers Instant Online Movie Streaming 247

An anonymous reader writes "If you're the owner of a video rental store, it may be time to start thinking about getting into a different business, according to ZDNet. Netflix, the online movie rental service, is offering a new feature that allows its subscribers to instantly view movies and TV shows on their PC. From the article: 'Following a one-time, under-60-second installation of a simple browser applet, most subscribers' movie selections will begin playing in their Web browser in as little as 10 to 15 seconds. Movies can be paused and a position bar gives viewers the ability to immediately jump to any point in the movie. In all, the instant watching feature requires only Internet connectivity with a minimum of one megabit per second of bandwidth.' These movies are in addition to the standard DVDs you can have at home, it should be pointed out. You can see a demonstration of the service at the Hacking Netflix blog." Only a small percentage of customers have it available at the moment, but they hope to roll it out to everyone within six months.
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Netflix Now Offers Instant Online Movie Streaming

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  • wow.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by advocate_one ( 662832 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @08:39AM (#17627596)
    the tubes are really gonna get filled up now...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I know that's a joke, but isn't it true? With Blockbuster and others most likely following suit, the internet is going to get pretty clogged.
  • Scratched? (Score:5, Funny)

    by lpcustom ( 579886 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @08:42AM (#17627636)
    I wonder if the streaming videos will have virtual scratches that cause them to skip like the real netflix dvd's do......
  • by Shaman ( 1148 ) <shaman&kos,net> on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @08:43AM (#17627640) Homepage
    This is the kind of thing that is going to strain the Internet's fabric at the seams. Up until now, your typical 1337 torrent freak was pretty uncommon among the general public, so the Internet has coped for the most part. But when the general public starts downloading several gigabytes of video every night, the whole equation will change.

    I strongly suspect you will see bit capacities on all ISPs very shortly if they don't have them already. I know Sympatico in Canada was "unlimited" right up until last month when all their DSL circuits went to 5Mbps, and they claimed they would grandfather existing customers with unlimited service - which they turned on within the month.

    So... I don't know whether this is a positive or a negative change, but I'm guessing for a lot of peering points and a lot of overloaded switch fabrics, this is a deal breaker.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by packeteer ( 566398 )
      Consumer demands will always be fufilled if there is a profitable way to do so. With all technology increasing exponentially over time there is no limit to how much progress we can make. There is also no limit to how much progress we want.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shaman ( 1148 )
        Consumer demands will always be fufilled if there is a profitable way to do so.

        Yes, but profitable for whom? If the network operators see only costs and Netflix sees only profit, what do you see happening?
        • by LunaticTippy ( 872397 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:22AM (#17629902)
          Netflix is going to have to pay for bandwidth. Nobody will sell netflix bandwidth at a loss for very long. If average costs for the consumer end go up because of higher average usage, they'll raise prices on the other end, or delay dropping prices for a while. It seems pretty simple to me.

          The internet went through a similar adjustment when the text to graphic change occurred in the early 90s. People predicted these "huge" graphic files and animations were going to break the internet. Prices have only gone down. I used to pay $30/month for 9600 baud dialup. Now I pay $30/month for 1.5/384 dsl. I bet in 10 years we'll be measuring our internet bandwith in gigabits and it'll still be $30/month.

          Just think about how much things have changed. The typical home internet user used to have a dumb terminal and would occasionally transfer files of a few kilobytes. Total monthly usage was maybe 1 megabyte for a fiend. We've already added several orders of magnitude to this. Why the problem with one or two more?
    • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @08:58AM (#17627762) Homepage Journal
      Up until now, your typical 1337 torrent freak was pretty uncommon among the general public
      Nonono, that's just what we want the **AA to think!

      Actually, people were saying the same things about MMOs, and before that Usenet binaries, and before the integration of images into webpages. As long as people expect a certain level of service, the industry will grow to provide it, which in turn will make people expect a certain level of service. It's a cycle, you can never "top out" on infrastructure.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Shaman ( 1148 )
        It's a cycle, you can never "top out" on infrastructure.

        This is simply not true. Take a read through various articles re: BGP tables and route/switch fabric limitations facing us today. The very largest switches in a BGP environment (all the Internet backbone systems) have very finite amounts of performance and no path in sight for improving that anytime soon. The best way to deal with it is put the content closer to the customer, but something tells me that it's not going to work out that way in the sho
        • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:14AM (#17629796) Homepage Journal
          We are definitely *not* going to see a doubling of performance for switch fabric in the near future. We definitely *could* see a doubling of Internet traffic as a result of IPTV.
          We weren't going to see a doubling of performance on the speed of a modem connected to POTS lines either, once that topped out. Instead of trying to break laws of physics with century-old copper wire, they replaced it with broadband.

          Of course working on the backbone is much different than swapping your 56K modem for cable or fiber or what have you, and I'm not saying any of this will happen overnight, or even anytime soon. However, it is pretty much a guarantee that something will eventually come along to upgrade what's in use now. And if broadband video and/or other goodies the customers want choke out the current system, the providers will have to either set up something new, or lose their clientele to someone who does.

          Remember AOL apologizing in their TV ads for service interruptions and busy signals during the Internet boom? Nobody in the industry wants to do that again, and they'll throw all the cash they can at avoiding it.
    • by gravesb ( 967413 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:39AM (#17628220) Homepage
      As long as men can say "My pipe is bigger than yours," Internet bandwidth will never stop expanding.
    • Sympatico is still unlimited if you have a contract. For new customers without a contract you get a rediculously low cap. I still have unlimited, granted I've had Sympatico for many years.
    • The requirements for being 1337 must have dropped considerably for 2007. Knowing how to use bittorrent, is enough to make you 1337 now?
  • by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @08:43AM (#17627642)
    This has definitely been a long time coming, but finally legal movie downloads are going the way of digital music, UP!
  • Hold on now... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Constantine XVI ( 880691 ) <trash.eighty+slashdot@gm a i l . com> on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @08:43AM (#17627644)
    Don't think this is the end of Blockbuster and friends yet. They still have one -major- advantage over streaming.
    The TV.
    Until there's some way to put these videos on your TV without offending the MPAA (Not everyone has a HTPC), DVDs will always have the advantage. Not to mention the low amount of people I know that have the necessary bandwith for this service.
    • If they had a service where you could download the movie in DIVX, or XVID or some other MPEG4 Format, which the program would convert to MPEG2 to put on a DVD, then I think they could make a lot of headway. The movies would be a lot smaller (less bandwidth is good for the server and the client), and people would be able to watch them on the TV. They still wouldn't be as good quality as getting the actual DVD, but if they sold them for around $5-$10, I could see a lot of people opting for this over the DVD.
      • That sounds nice, but remember that we are dealing with the MPAA here. I -highly- doubt that will happen anytime soon, after seeing what happened with the music industry and iTunes and friends allowing burning music to CDs, destroying the copy protection they wanted so badly
    • by necro81 ( 917438 )
      I think that CES 2007 debuted several devices that allow you to stream video (wirelessly, in many cases) from a PC to a set-top box, and thence to the TV. These are not widespread yet, but there are enough products that the link from PC to TV is bridged.
      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        From the research I did last night they all blow. I researched units from the usual suspects (DLink, Linksys, Buffalo Tech, etc) and they all had lockup problems and most couldn't even handle the limited number of formats that they claimed to support. For the slashdot crowd I still think the answer is a HTPC in a nice case. Use a low power athlon64 x2 or core2 duo and it won't kill you on electricity usage.
    • Re:Hold on now... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:03AM (#17627814)
      S-Video cables are that difficult to use? Every computer I've owned in the past 5 years has had an S-Video TV-out on it. Every TV I've had has either a composite or S-Video in. You don't need Windows Media Centre or Front Row to watch movies on your TV. I just plug my crappy old notebook (with no battery, a broken lid catch, an external WiFi card and a slow hard disk) into either my small TV or projector. I can use the aforementioned S-Video, or even VGA, to do the job. Putting your computer's display through a TV is one of the easiest things you can do with a computer. And, the MPAA doesn't give a shit, as it's an auxilary monitor. It might have Macrovision on it, but you can still watch it perfectly. Just no recordy-recordy, that's all.
      • I don't know of many people that want an ugly workstation permanently plugged into their TV or that are willing to plug their laptop in every time they want to stream a film. There is no real danger to the bricks and mortar rental places until TVs (or set top boxes) that can accept the streaming become ubiquitous. IMO, the killer appliance would be a DVR priced less than 500 USD with a DVD drive and a network interface capable of pulling movies from all the PCs in the house as well as services such as this.
        • I hear what you're saying, I really do. I use a notebook, which is easy for me. Before I used my notebook, I used my PC and a long video lead - no problems there. The PC is in another room, so there's even less clutter than a DVD :)

          For those who don't have a computer to stream to, there are a host of STBs that allow streaming across your network. If these feeds are RTSP, then they can most likely be brought directly to those boxes.

          And as for taking your media with you, I take ALL my media wherever I g

          • The salient point being that these solutions are not wide spread and there are large obstacles to widespread adoption. Consequently, the video rental store has quite a bit of life left.
            • I've been using them for years! :) I hear what you're saying, and now I think these barriers are rapidly falling away. Everyone I know can download at 130KB/s, and everyone I know has the ability to plug a STB into their network and TV and stream movies directly from wheverthey fancy. The weakness of bricks'n'mortar rental stores are being highlighted more and more each day, and services like this really emphasize the shortcomings we all took for granted.
        • Sound like you need a couple of these bad boys [svideo.com] and a spool of Cat-5e. I have a pair that connects my computer in the den to our big, shiny TV in the living room. It's great. We can watch iTMS videos (like Lost) on our TV. We can watch streaming video on our TV. And when our DVD player broke, we used the computer to play the DVDs, too. For me, this also functions as an easy way to plug iTunes into my stereo system. In all, it was totally worth the investment. And no ugly, fire-breathing computer (9 f
          • What do you use to control the computer from that far away? I've looked into solutions like that, but it seemed like RF remotes or IR-RF-IR converters would be a real PITA and add a lot of complexity.

            I'm in the process of putting together an HTPC system right now, and the remote control issue is the last one that I have to tackle. I'm really not looking forward to it; everything I've read suggests that LIRC is a huge pain.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rlp ( 11898 )
        > S-Video cables are that difficult to use? Every computer I've owned in the past 5 years has had an S-Video TV-out on it.

        My (low-end LCD) TV has several S-Video inputs. It also has a VGA input - that's the one my PC is plugged into. I've had to use WiFi on the PC, since my wife objected to my throwing a CAT6 cable over the loft railing into the living room. I've found a decent remote (bluetooth) presentation mouse. Just wish there was a DECENT wireless keyboard available (I've already got several cr
        • by dave420 ( 699308 )
          I made a custom interface on my phone to give a list of all my movies and TV shows, so I just use that to queue up media. It also has a remote control interface for my media player of choice (zoom player), so that's all I need. Decent bluetooth keyboards are a bitch to find, though - good luck! :)
      • Putting your computer's display through a TV is one of the easiest things you can do with a computer.

        Not when the computer is sitting on a desk in the home office, and the TV is situated in the living room, on the other side of the house.

        Most people don't have their entertainment centers wired for computing and the Internet yet, but over the next 5-10 years, it's going to become as standard as DVD players and stereo speakers.
    • Very good point. I don't want to watch DVDs on my 19" 4:3 lcd screen at my desk. I want to watch them on my couch, on my 30" widescreen.

      Now, I have a TV out on my machine, but that would be one long cable! So, maybe an Apple TV-esque device would be handy here. I know they have wireless G music streamers, what about for video?

      One more things... I only have 768Kbps DSL, time to upgrade--when they fix this TV thing that is!
    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )
      Netflix needs to make a version of their software that runs on PS3, XBOX 360, Wii, Tivo, etc. If they did that, then the HTPC would become ubiquitous.
    • It is ALREADY the end of Blockbuster. In Pittsburgh, all of the blockbuster locations went bankrupt and closed last year. Since they already put the mom and pop video stores out of business long ago, there is virtually no where to rent a video any more in the city. (there are a few exceptions, like some grocery stores, etc.) Normally Pittsburgh is 5-10 years behind the rest of the country, but this time I think we are ahead of the curve. Blockbusters anywhere won't last much longer.
  • weak feature (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Speare ( 84249 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @08:44AM (#17627648) Homepage Journal

    Somehow, I don't think that the brick and mortar video rental services are doomed just yet. There's a bit of a difference in picking up a movie with your groceries to watch it with the family on the big-screen in the living room, and downloading it so you can wait to buffer up enough to play it inside a web browser window with heavy compression on the small screen of the bill-paying appliance.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by phrenq ( 38736 )
      To be fair, the 1 megabit/second speed they want is fast enough to stream DVD quality video, so I don't think compression is going to be an issue. Of course, that just exacerbates the bandwidth issue, but this isn't exactly targeted at the 56k modem user.
      • 1 Mbit per sec [note bit not byte] works out to 430 Megabytes per hour. Full DVD quality video stream is 2.2 Gigabytes pers hour. So there is some compression. But still the quality would be much better than VHS or VCD or even S-VCD. BTW getting the picture on to the big screen in the living room is no big deal. Almost all the HDTVs have VGA input, PC input. Even if they dont have, S-Video out is common in many laptops. Or you can buy a 50$ adapter to convert VGA to NTSC.
        • by phrenq ( 38736 )
          Duh, of course you're right. I did some quick math and figured you could get over 800 megabytes in two hours, and thought, "That should fit a DVD perfectly." I'm still living in the stone age of the CD.
        • by afidel ( 530433 )
          Actually if they are using MPEG4 then it's not too bad. Typical MPEG4 movie rips from DVD are around 700MB for 90 minute movies, so they are shortchanging the bitrate a tad, but not so much as to make the film unwatchable. My guess is they are dropping the audio quality to get to that lower bitrate. This sucks for me because I just bought a nice surround sound system and this is probably low quality stereo sound, guess I'll have to wait for the next version =)
      • Decent DVD video is over 4 megabits per second.

        1 megabit per second is about the bitrate of your average CD-sized DivX file. Certainly nowhere near DivX quality, but better than other streaming video.
    • Exactly. Despite the fact that Best Buy cells "Media Center" PCs, very few people are actually hooking these things up to their TVs. They are mostly being used as regular PC that happen to have the Media Center stuff installed. Now, if they were to partner up with Tivo on something like this, then the the rental stores might BEGIN to see an effect, but even the Tivo subscriber base is relatively small.

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )

      The display issue noted in the video is due to the beta-nature of the service. Most people have megabit+ connections, and that's fine for downloading a video. The fact you can browse, select and play all without getting up makes this worlds apart from movies-over-mail. I guess people said the same thing about email - it's not the same as writing an actual letter with an actual pen, or even CDs/Vinyl/cassettes when mp3s became popular. People want convenience, and that's what this is. As for watching it

    • by SengirV ( 203400 )
      Two out of the four blockbuster video's in my areas(I live in one of largest AND largest growing counties in the US) have closed shop in the last year. These 4 have co-existed "happily" together for years. I'm not saying that netflix is the cause, but it sure didn't HELP these outlets.
      • by Duds ( 100634 ) *
        I left the industry (The UK arm of a leading Video Rental chain) about this time last year. At that time we'd had 3 straight years of double digit falls on average revenue. Their current offers suggest to me it's not getting any better.
  • windows only (Score:3, Informative)

    by mmkkbb ( 816035 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @08:47AM (#17627674) Homepage Journal
    I read an article in the paper this morning claiming that this will be available for windows only. How disappointing.
  • windows only (Score:2, Informative)

    by bograt ( 943491 )

    From Netflix [netflix.com]:

    System Requirements:
    Windows XP with Service Pack 2
    or Windows Vista

    Internet Explorer version 6
    or higher

  • by vwjeff ( 709903 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @08:58AM (#17627748)
    I will not watch a full movie on my PC. That's what I have a home theater setup for. I already have Netflix and I'm excited because I will be able to evaluate a movie before I put it in my queue. I'll watch the first 20 minutes of the movie and decide if it is worth investing more time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I will not watch a full movie on my PC. That's what I have a home theater setup for.

      A lot of us have a PC as a component of our home theater setups. It is cheaper and easier to use than most mp3 player components. It is about the only easy way to play random YouTube videos on the big screen. Since it can also do duty as a CD player, DVD player, slideshow viewer, DVR, etc. it is a rather vital component in my mind.

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )

      Score: 1, Living-in-the-late-90s

      Many people have already integrated their PCs into their home theatres. Those who want real flexibility with their media have done this already, as it's a lot easier keeping DVDs on hard disks than on individual, can't-be-played-when-in-the-box, discs. I download a lot of HD video, captures of the actual MPEG streams in general, and if my PC wasn't connected to my home theatre, I couldn't watch it. PCs having true 1080p output (and even greater) and 7.1 DTS/THX sound m

  • Internet Not Ready (Score:4, Interesting)

    by organgtool ( 966989 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @08:59AM (#17627766)
    In all, the instant watching feature requires only Internet connectivity with a minimum of one megabit per second of bandwidth

    ONLY one megabit per second of bandwidth? I live in a well populated area and my ONLY option is 768Kbps DSL or a 6Mbps cable connection that is saturated with other users in the neighborhood. Verizon's FIOS is still a few years away from being installed in my neighborhood, so this service is useless to me.

    Hopefully this service will get people to see the benefit of higher speed connections and spark a bigger demand for more speed.
    • by uhmmmm ( 512629 )
      This is what I love about being in Japan. I've got 50 Mbps internet, for only a little more than my parents pay back home for 5 Mbps.
    • That sucks.

      My cable connection is about to get doubled from 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps. Right now, my connection is generally saturated 24/7, pegged at 4.7 Mbps down from Newshosting.. and I live in a densely populated college town. Your cable company sucks if you can't maintain >1 Mbps on a 6 Mbps connection all the time.
    • It also requires Windows XP service pack 2 and Internet Explorer 6.0 or better (can those two really co-exists?). I can't provide a URL because Netflix will redirect you to the login page. If you have an account, go to "Account Preferences" and notice the advertisement on the right of the screen, click the link for details.
    • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

      What really sucks is that thanks to products like Tivo, many users are used to time-shifting anyway. When you time-shift, then it doesn't really matter how long it takes to download, because you're probably not watching it until later. The only advantage a 10 Gbps connection should offer over a 512 Kbps connection, is that the movie should be ready a couple hours sooner.

      Streaming video is a bad idea for this reason and others. [slashdot.org] If they specify a minimum bandwidth, it means they screwed up.

  • Good First Step! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bareman ( 60518 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:00AM (#17627774) Homepage Journal
    I like the way Netflix is doing this. Rolling it out as an additional, no extra fee, feature of their service shows that they are ready to start the next generation of film viewing, and that they realize that this service is not presently ready to fully replace their current model.

    Good job Netflix!

  • quality? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wileyAU ( 889251 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:03AM (#17627808) Homepage
    The main reason that I use Netflix (as opposed to downloading movies over Bittorrent) is that I have a nice TV, surround sound system, etc. and prefer DVD quality as opposed to anything you can get over the internet. Until Netflix can offer a similar service over the internet (at least 480p, 5.1 surround), I'm not that interested.
  • This is really close to what I've been waiting for. If the app will allow me to go "full screen" with the proper overlay setting, it'll be perfect.

    Of course, I wonder about the "1Mb/s" requirement. XVID files are usually around 400MB/hour. That's what, 128kbps. What is their service doing that requires 8* the bandwidth of a torrent download?

    And before you say that the BT download is low quality, I watch these things via S-Video out of my laptop right onto a 50" 1080i HDTV.

    PS, I just pulled up the proper
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by greenrom ( 576281 )
      358MB file / 42m41s = 139.9 kiloBYTES per second. 139.9 * 8 = 1.1 megaBITS per second. Plus, this is an average bitrate. MPEG video is often encoded at a variable bitrate, so some parts may have a higher bitrate than others. There is also going to be protocol overhead that adds to these numbers -- those IP and TCP or UDP headers take up bandwidth too. Therefore, one would have to assume that Netflix will be encoding at a lower bitrate than what you're used to. Probably at least 25% less. I would expec
    • Xvid files are indeed around 400MB/hour. That's 114KBps.. but 910Kbps.

      1Mb/s is 450MB/hour.

      So the quality should be comparable to standard Xvid.

      This is low quality compared to DVD. 1Mbps Xvid is quite far down the totem pole from 4-5Mbps DVD.

      Big B means bytes, and a byte is 8 little b's (bits).
  • Obstacles for this service killing off the bricks and mortar rental shops:
    • Closed captioning.
    • Big ass TVs that aren't connected to the 'net.
    • Being able to take it to a friend's house.

    The sweet spot for me for a service such as this will be when Apple releases a Mac mini with an HDTV tuner for convenient way to get a movie from my PC to my television where I can watch movies from the comfort of my couch with my decent stereo cranked up enough to make the bass notes of the soundtrack rumble through the floor.

      1. But given that this is done within an applet, I should think that adding closed captioning, for any and every language, becomes a trivial matter to implement.
      2. I don't understand why more televisions today don't have an ethernet port and run something like Ubuntu. Seems like minimal investment with a host of real advantages, such as containing a full-fledged browser with tie-ins to YouTube (and now NetFlix).
      3. If your friend has broadband, shouldn't be a problem.
    • by dave420 ( 699308 )

      To stream to your TV, use one of the many STBs out there that do what you want, only they cost a LOT less than a Mac mini. HDTV all the way, digital audio, etc. It's the same as having it plugged in to your high-end AV equipment, only wireless :) nVidia launched one at CES, which costs $349, and does everything. It's OSX and Linux compatible, too :)

      As for taking it to a friend's house, unless he doesn't have internet, you just have to show up and you've brought it, and all other NetFlix content, with y

  • mixed signals (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Danzigism ( 881294 )
    i personally think this is atleast a step in the right direction.. a lot of people are complaining about it being in a web-browser, and how lame it would be to watch a movie on your computer.. well, being that I have my TV hooked up as a secondary display, I'm sure it will be just fine.. atleast fine enough to get the point of the movie across.. I know not to be looking for DVD quality with this of course..

    I don't think I'll use the service all the time, but I wouldn't mind using it if the quality is so

  • It happens to XM all the time, songs ripped directly from the stream. How long before amazon and netflix and whoever else face the same problem? I can see these streaming movies cancelled once the RIAA and MPAA get wind of the number of streamgrabbers out there. How easy would it be, really? Now we burn netflix DVD's in about 2 hours, imagine how many people would signup for netflix if they could burn (or save to ISO) the movie AS THEY WATCH IT? This has 'Netflix, meet shark' written all over it. 12 mo
    • From the linked article:

      Subscribers on Netflix's most popular plan, $17.99 for unlimited DVD rental and three discs out at a time, will have 18 hours of online movie watching per month.

      18 hours is about 9-12 movies per month, which is about how many movies you can get per month on the 3 at a time plan (maybe a bit better if you've been throttled). So this isn't going to substantially increase the problem over what people can do now by ripping the DVDs they get in the mail.

  • by hxnwix ( 652290 )
    As the telephone companies love to tell us, IPTV over the internet as we know it is impossible. Without QOS, this service will not work - at all. Why is Netflix lying like this? It makes me cry.
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:19AM (#17627954) Homepage
    I think virtually all rhetoric about device B being a "device-A-killer," or one technology quickly displacing other, is dumb... and in many cases is promotion by supporters of the new device or technology, hoping to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    In 2000, when dedicated eBook devices were introduced, one could have imagined people saying "If you're the owner of a bookstore, it may be time to start thinking about getting into a different business."

    In 1950, and early adopters were inviting their friends to come over and watch Milton Berle, one could have imagined people saying "If you're the owner of a movie theatre, it may be time to start thinking about getting into a different business."

    All businessmen need to be watching their back, and video rental store owners are well advised to be vigilant... the times, they certainly are a' changin'. Going out to the movies and buying overpriced boxes of Nonpareils is a different product and a different experience from watching "The Wizard of Oz" on a television set. The latter model may ultimately displace the former, but it's not at all obvious just how it will happen or at what speed or when

    Similarly, downloading a movie and watching it on your PC is going to feel very different from renting a DVD. And speaking of Milton Berle on a 5" diameter round Dumont picture tube... a) who wants to watch movies "on their PCs?" b) Do you have your PC in the living room connected to a big screen? Does anybody you know? Yesyesyes I know all about the technology and Steve Job's "Apple TV" and "convergence," the big buzzword since 1990. I just don't see it actually happening yet. All these companies are selling a solution to something my son-in-law doesn't see as a big problem.

    If Netflix would let you burn that movie to a DVD and carry it over to the big-screen TV set that a lot of people I know do have, then, yes, the video stores should worry a bit more. But at the moment the movie industry seems to be adamantly opposed to concepts like "permanent" and "own" and "bought it."

    • Similarly, downloading a movie and watching it on your PC is going to feel very different from renting a DVD. And speaking of Milton Berle on a 5" diameter round Dumont picture tube... a) who wants to watch movies "on their PCs?" b) Do you have your PC in the living room connected to a big screen? Does anybody you know?

      Almost all the HDTVs and HD monitors in the market take in VGA input. Many modern laptops have S-Video out. VGA to NTSC converters are cheap. 50$ or so.

    • by raehl ( 609729 )
      And when the CD came out, one could have imagined people saying "If you're in the record player manufacturing business..."

      DOH!

      And when automobiles were invented, one could have imagined people saying "If you're in the horse carriage business..."

      DOH!

      And when PCs were invented, one could have imagined people saying "If you're in the typewriter business..."

      DOH
      • "And when the CD came out, one could have imagined people saying "If you're in the record player manufacturing business..."

        Look at this [synthtopia.com] and this [zzounds.com] and this [retrowonders.com].

        CD players have been out for so long that people are declaring the CD itself to be dead, yet there are still people making money by manufacturing record players.
  • now we just need a module to make this work from within MythTV.
  • by cfulmer ( 3166 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @09:58AM (#17628506) Homepage Journal
    This really illustrates the argument over net neutrality: Netflix's service (almost) directly competes with your cable company's video-on-demand service. But, what has to be even more galling to the cable companies, the Netflix service does it by sending video over cable company's own network! (Assuming you get your internet through a cable modem.) No wonder they want to treat different providers differently.

    The problem, of course, is that since most "high-speed" residential internet services still don't provide truly high-speed service, the quality of this Netflix service is probably nowhere near as good as the cable company's video-on-demand service. And, that gives the cable company a big disincentive to upgrade their data network -- as soon as they do, somebody will use that upgraded network to "steal" customers from their other services.

    Because most phone companies also want to provide video over their high-speed networks, the probable end result of this will be that so-called "high-speed" providers will slow their deployment of faster Internet connections. Competition is the only real cure for this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sloppy ( 14984 )

      The problem, of course, is that since most "high-speed" residential internet services still don't provide truly high-speed service, the quality of this Netflix service is probably nowhere near as good as the cable company's video-on-demand service.

      Netflix gets to choose whether this is an issue or not. If they require streaming, then it's a problem. But if you play the movie in MythTV from your hard drive, it doesn't matter the movie you downloaded last night took 30 minutes or 6 hours to transfer.

      They

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @10:40AM (#17629186) Homepage Journal
    Ok, it's time to deal with this before it gets too big.

    If the movies are transferred to the user via a good old fashioned protocol like http or ftp, then that means ISPs can cache it. 10000 Comcast users buy the movie, and those gigabytes get transferred from Netflix to Comcast once, and then 10000 times from Comcast's hard drive to the users (assuming those users aren't sharing any "more local" caches).

    If they are using some stupid streaming protocol, then it gets transferred once for each sale. That is really, really stupid. It doesn't just harm Comcast (who, let's face it, is going to pass the cost on to their customers) but it also costs Netflix (oh wait, they will just pass the cost on, too). It also costs everyone in between, pisses off ISPs since they don't like to pass extra costs to the customers ("if we're going to charge customers more, then that extra charge should go into our pocket, dammit!") and that means we get more lobbyist in Washington to get rid of "net neutrality" which not only sucks, but will probably have numerous other distasteful riders attached.

    That means it is you guys -- the customers -- who need to make sure this is done right. If Netflix's approach doesn't work with caches (e.g. Squid) then BOYCOTT IT. Anything that is a technological step backwards from the web, is a disgrace.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Do you work for a struggling broadband ISP? Using bandwidth that's already been paid for isn't "harming" anyone; it's more properly called "business". If ISPs have made bad deals, let them choke on their own shortsightedness.

      BTW, I don't think caching and DRM are compatible.
      • by AnyoneEB ( 574727 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:42PM (#17631454) Homepage
        BTW, I don't think caching and DRM are compatible.
        Sure they are. Company distributes video file encrypted with AES (or another block cipher) and keep the AES key secret. Anyone can download that file. The company has some DRM scheme such that an asymmetric key is generated such that the DRM utility on the customer's computer is only one with access to the private key. The user pays the company and then the company encrypts the key for the video file with the user's key and sends it off. This key may be stored in a key file or may just be put into the video file as metadata along with the title, etc. It doesn't matter because the key is only usable by that one user. (The decrypted key is never stored on the hard drive and is carefully protected when in memory.) As I understand it, this essentially is how MS's WMV (and WMA?) encryption currently works (in terms of process, not specific algorithms). You can look up details on the WMV protection, which is documented to some extent, but, as far as I know, not cracked.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by panaceaa ( 205396 )
        BTW, I don't think caching and DRM are compatible.

        Apple iTunes Music Store uses Akamai as their distribution network, which caches copies of all of the iTMS tracks across the globe. Apple still manages to restrict their AAC files by using calls back to Apple to perform DRM management and restrict a user to five copies, or whatever their current policies are.

        I hope the grandparent poster reads this too: If Akamai can cache iTMS's files, and Akamai is a large customer of Adobe's Flash Media Server, which can
  • Good Next Step (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jswinth ( 528529 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:03AM (#17629594) Homepage

    This is a good next step for Netflix. Here is a partial list of what they have done so far:

    • Let the postman deliver and return the movies. This got around the shelf space limit of the physical video store.
    • Introduce a monthly subscription that eliminated late fees. Procrastinators rejoice!
    • Get many of the studios to press (or allow Netflix to press) special editions of movies that travel through the mail better.
    • Compete with the new crop of VOD (video on demand) offerings by including it in the monthly fee (this might be an upgrade feature later).

    Before there was widespread broadband we had a "last mile" problem that everyone was talking about. Now, many here are complaining about the "last room" problem of being able to watch this on their TV. I, for one, am glad that Netflix is not yet trying to solve this problem. It leaves it open to be solved in a non-restrictive way.

    With the fast forward features from Netflix, all I need to stop watching in one room and start in another is a Internet connected browser. How soon before I can play this on my PS3, XBox360, Wii, SlingCatcher, or what ever other device that has the right connection to a TV. For my living room I would want something like the new Apple TV with HDMI connector. For other rooms, maybe I'll try to find some cheap unit with RCA output.

    If Netflix continues to expand the number of movies offered by VOD like they have with DVD then I look forward to my multitude of choices. For action movies and long playing TV series I will continue to get the DVDs in the mail. For romantic movies and cartoons that the wife wants to watch, the downloaded quality would be fine.

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