Netflix opens Silverlight streaming beta

  • Chicago (IL) - Netflix has begun the first phase of what appears to be a carefully orchestrated roll-out of a major movies streaming service called “Watch Instantly”. Paired with Microsoft's Silverlight technology, Netflix aims to deliver a next-gen platform for HD video rentals over the Internet. If it succeeds, it may give Apple's iTunes a serious run for its money.   

    As previously reported, Netflix plans to be offering its movie streaming service to a much wider audience using Microsoft’s Silverlight platform. For the first time, the technology called "Watch Instantly" will be available to owners of Intel-based Macs as well. Following the initial announcement, Netflix opened beta access to the service for qualifying Netflix subscribers on an opt-in basis.

    In a blog post, Netflix said that that bugs should be expected since this the software is still in early beta and has an incomplete library. The final version is scheduled to be available later this year.

    The beta supports both Mac and PCs with Microsoft's Silverlight, which needs to be installed on all computers used to access Netflix movies. Netflix chief product officer Neil Hunt said the company has opted for Silverlight, because it features Play Ready technology for the delivery of dynamic streaming, with faster video start-up, and encoding quality that auto-adapts in real time to connection speeds of client PCs.

    Silverlight also supports a platform- and browser-agnostic copy protection that prevents video stream ripping, something Hollywood studios are very sensitive about.

    The second phase of the "Watch Instantly" roll-out will expand from an initially limited portion of the library to a much larger catalog with 12,000 movies and TV shows, which can be streamed through the Roku set-top box, Blu-ray players, TiVo, and the Xbox 360. The “Watch Instantly” feature is free for Netflix subscribers. Available streaming volume depends on individual subscription plans: Unlimited streaming is included in plans priced at $8.99 per month and higher.