Netflix Streaming Arriving Soon on PlayStation 3

Netflix's Instant Watching feature allows subscribers of the DVD rental-by-mail service to stream a select group of 17,000 movies to a PC or a compatible device.  Up until now, the XBOX 360 was the only game console capable of streaming movies from Netflix, but that will soon change as the 360 is joined by its most direct competitor, the PlayStation 3.  PS3 owners will soon have access to the same library of movies by utilizing the BD Live feaures offered by the console when it is used as a Blu-ray player.  Unfortunately, this means that a special Blu-ray disc with the streaming code will be required to use Instant Watching, but this is hopefully a temporary solution until the next major firmware update to the PS3 some time next year.  After that point, the disc should no longer be necessary, and Watch Instantly should just appear in the PS3's Xross Media Bar (XMB).

Netflix Instant Watching has been a feather in the cap of XBOX 360 owners for nearly a year now and is something that really adds value to the console and the Netflix subscription, satisfying the spontaneous urge to watch a movie that DVD-by-mail simply couldn't.  But now PS3 owners will be able to get in on the fun too, along with Wii users if Netflix has its way.  In addition, while the use of Instant Watching on the XBOX 360 requires an XBOX Live! Gold subscription that costs $50 per year, the PS3 uses the PlayStation Network which has no additional cost.

Fanboys of both consoles have already begun debating the merits of each console's approach.  PlayStation loyalists deride the need for the paid XBOX Live! subscription; XBOX fans claim that the XBOX's attractive interface and smooth networking will make it superior.  But the truth is that this may be good news for everyone involved, including PC, TiVo, and Roku users.  The more subscribers that Netflix has to its streaming service, the more clout it will have in getting movies into its library.  And more movies to choose from will improve the experience for all movie viewers using the service.

On an separate note, Roku announced two new players in addition to the $100 Roku HD it had been selling that support Netflix Instant Watching.  At the low end is the $80 Roku SD which, as its name implies, lacks the high-definition capability of its more expensive siblings.  At the high end is the Roku HD-XR which adds 802.11n wireless networking to the unit for $130.  Wireless-N networking should give the HD-XR the bandwidth it needs to stream those high-def videos across the user's wireless network without too many hiccups.