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Netflix Extends "Watch Instantly" To Mac Users 205

Posted by kdawson
from the instant-grats dept.
CNet is reporting that Netflix has opened up its "Watch Instantly" feature to Mac users (here is Netflix's blog entry). They accomplished this by using Microsoft's Silverlight technology on both platforms, abandoning the Windows Media Player solution that had been employed in the first, Windows-only, version. Silverlight's DRM capabilities meet Netflix's needs, apparently. Netflix warns that this is beta software. Mac users can opt in here, then watch instantly with Safari or Firefox 2+, with the Silverlight plugin in place. Movie selection is somewhat limited.
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Netflix Extends "Watch Instantly" To Mac Users

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  • by Hannes2000 (1113397) on Monday November 03, 2008 @04:31AM (#25609557) Homepage
    I am really afraid of DRM giving Silverlight power and more distribution (and vice versa). While Flash has (or will have?) DRM capabilities too, another "competitor" on the DRM market could really make things even worse than they are.
    • by plasmacutter (901737) on Monday November 03, 2008 @04:48AM (#25609637)

      I am really afraid of DRM giving Silverlight power and more distribution (and vice versa). While Flash has (or will have?) DRM capabilities too, another "competitor" on the DRM market could really make things even worse than they are.

      On the contrary, more "competition" in the DRM realm is the best way to make things better than they are.

      competing formats == more people frustrated and screaming "why the hell isn't this working" at the top of their lungs.

      Of course, base silverlight without the DRM packages will work just fine at doing that. In fact, that's my guess at why it "meets their requirements".

      Nothing makes a more "secure" drm than a codec and playback system with arguably the lowest market penetration and adoption rate as of this post. Security by obscurity at its best.

      In the mean time, there's a better competitor [thepiratebay.org] to netflix for those who want their full HD movies in a watchable, savable, and compatible format.

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        All these problems could be solved with .avi

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by DigDuality (918867)
          i'd prefer theora.
          • by Gewalt (1200451) on Monday November 03, 2008 @10:05AM (#25611265)

            i'd prefer theora.

            That's unique. No, really, I mean it. You're the only one in the world. Literally.

            • I don't know, ability to rip an entire dvd, embed subtitles and multiple audio tracks, and have my sound in ogg (giving slightly better compression/quality) is a nice perk. Not really worth the loss of compatibility with other programs though.

          • Theora is a codec, equivalent to VC-1 and H.264. It's also a lot less efficient, so you'd get lower quality given a particular bitrate.

            AVI is a wrapper, equivalent to AVI, ASF, or MPEG-4. If you're talking about alternatives to AVI for Theora, you probably mean Ogg

            But Silverlight itself isn't a media format, but a rich application runtime for browsers based on .net. Silverlight 2 mainly uses WMV as its media format, but it will be addding MPEG-4 and H.264 soon.

            http://on10.net/blogs/benwagg/H264-and-AAC-s [on10.net]

    • Which will happen.

    • Does this mean netflix/silverlight can play on an iphone? All iphone users, I challenge you.
      • by KGIII (973947) *

        A quick search says that Microsoft wants to put Silverlight on the iPhone... Maybe... In the not too distant future... Maybe... But, who knows?

  • by TiberSeptm (889423) on Monday November 03, 2008 @04:45AM (#25609617)
    It doesn't seem to differ from the normal instant watch selection. Obviously that selection is limited in that it does not encompass the entire Netflix library- that would be infeasible regardless of the player being used.
    As far as I can tell, the beta allows access to the full instant watch selection that IE users would see. The player loads and buffers much quicker than the player in IE7- allowing for much faster skipping forwards and backwards on the old P-IV in my living room. The performance difference is fairly pronounced on my relatively new laptop. Under Firefox it is consistently 15 seconds from clicking "play" while browsing instant-watch to the actual start of the video. In IE7 it will take between 30 seconds 45 seconds. Video quality is indistinguishable in terms of clarity, but I noticed much less stuttering in the silverlight player.
    On the old pentium IV machine in my livingroom, the time to play drops from about 1 minute to 25 seconds. While this is half the time, it was never a big deal when compared to the convenience. What is a big deal is the impressive drop in stuttering compared to the player in IE7. On my dinosaur of a living room computer, the video for all netflix movies would stutter every few seconds or so until the movie was fully buffered. In the silverlight player, there is no noticeable stuttering.
    I did this totally subjective, non-scientific, arbitrary, and slightly drunk comparison on the following two machines:


    Older-than-dirt desktop-
    -2.4 GHz Pentium IV
    -1GB DDR 333 RAM
    -Windows XP Home SP3
    -Ati Radeon 9800 Pro (256MB VRAM)

    Slightly Newer Laptop-
    -2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo
    -2GB DDR2 RAM
    -Windows XP Pro SP3
    -Ati Radeon Mobility x1400 (god awful)
    • by TiberSeptm (889423) on Monday November 03, 2008 @05:13AM (#25609731)
      Sadly, I titled the first post really poorly. After playing around with the "beta" player on a couple machines for a little while longer I found a few other things worth noting.

      The Silverlight player does not require nearly as much free space as the IE7/WMP player for the "high quality" video to play. I've checked and the library is the same as that availible for the PC as far as the 182 items in my instant queue go.

      While that doesn't cover the thousands upon thousands of items they stream, it does cover a wide range of properties. So far as I can tell, the Starz! content, the CBS current series content, the NBC current series content, and all the showtime content is still there. Other than that, well who cares if "Santa Clause Conquers the Martians" isn't availible in Firefox. Oh wait, it looks like it is.
    • Dirt is at least twice as old as a Pentium 4. Come back when you have 286 results.

    • by jfengel (409917)

      It doesn't seem to differ from the normal instant watch selection. Obviously that selection is limited in that it does not encompass the entire Netflix library- that would be infeasible regardless of the player being used.

      It doesn't even come close. Of the 100+ films in my (admittedly nonrepresentative) queue, only 4 are available for instant play.

      A lot of studios are clearly waiting for something, but I can't imagine what. All of your films end up on BitTorrent, whether you make them available for online play or not.

      I understand it taking time to get the back catalog ready, but they're not rushing to get the new stuff out, either. Perhaps they just haven't been offered the deal they want.

    • by rmadmin (532701)
      You've got something wrong with your P4 then. My main machine is an Athlon 1.8Ghz with 1G ram and a Geforce Ti3@1680x1050... and I get no stuttering problems at all. Infact, I've never had a problem running netflix on here.
  • This was somewhere (digg?) a couple days ago and it was in limited release to new users only. I still can't use it:

    Our apologies -- instant watching is currently not supported for Macintosh.

    We are working on a solution for Mac users and expect to have it available by the end of 2008.

  • by trawg (308495) on Monday November 03, 2008 @05:34AM (#25609799) Homepage

    Another annoying, proprietary bullshit extension I'm going to need to watch video in my browser that people are going to end up building entire websites in.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by powerspike (729889)
      ya it'll be great when they port all the codec's over to run in javascript realtime....
      • by trawg (308495)

        If Mozilla and webkit and co keep improving the performance of Javascript this might be a real option soon :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        There are video CODECs written in Smalltalk running on Squeak. I was at a presentation by Alan Kay a couple of years ago where he gave the entire presentation from within Squeak, including video. Squeak isn't a particularly fast implementation of Smalltalk - it's a bytecode interpreter with no JIT capabilities. A modern JavaScript environment should be faster.

        The main reason JavaScript would be slow for writing a video CODEC is that it only has one kind of numerical object, a double-precision float. Imp

  • by fluch (126140) on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:24AM (#25609985)

    I guess we all know it: https://thepiratebay.org/ [thepiratebay.org] And it doesn't require any Silverlight.

  • by hansoloaf (668609) <hansoloaf@yahDEGASoo.com minus painter> on Monday November 03, 2008 @07:04AM (#25610127)
    From Netflix help section:

    Can I see subtitles or closed captions while watching movies instantly on my PC?
    A:
    Foreign-language movies watched instantly on your PC will have subtitles. We don't currently provide Closed Captioning, nor subtitling of English language movies, but you'll find those on most of our DVDs.

    arrghh

  • Anyone tried it on Moonlight? I've tried a few other Silverlight applications on Moonlight with varying degrees of success. I might consider restarting my Netflix subscription if Moonlight could play the "Watch Instantly" features.
    • Except that the only moonlight installation I've seen (from http://www.go-mono.com/moonlight/index.aspx [go-mono.com]), explicitly says:

      "Note: These are currently built without multimedia support. No video or mp3 playback is enabled on these binaries."

      I know what that means, but I don't know why. Is it legal or technical?

  • This is obviously quite the coup for Microsoft and the Silverlight platform, which has up to now been a "nobody cares" platform [today.com]. The main effect of their previous big user, NBC for the Olympics, was to drive people to BitTorrent.

    I fully understand that NetFlix wouldn't be allowed to make Hollywood movies available without some sort of DRM. But do they remember they're competing not with DVDs by mail or DVD rental, but with unlocked BitTorrent downloads?

    How usable is NetFlix via Silverlight? Does the DRM hav

  • I couldn't get Silverlight to install in Firefox for some reason so I tried Opera. If you tell it to identify as Firefox then you can use watch instantly with Opera.
  • Every time I see a mention of Silverlight, it's followed shortly thereafter by a stream of comments of the form "Silverlight sux0rz". However, none of the ones I've skimmed have given any particular reasons.

    I'm curious as to specific reasons why I should avoid installing the Silverlight plug-in on my Mac. I'm already aware of (and sympathetic to) the "DRM is fundamentally evil" argument; I'm looking for other reasons beyond that (and its companion "Microsoft is evil").

    • by Foofoobar (318279)
      Problems with Firefox, DRM, not cross platform, relys heavily on Microsoft technologies (directX). How would you like to see everyone building everything that you see in Flash except suddenly it requires a directX driver to load? Well being on a mac, you can't load it becaue directx is only for Windows.

      It's another lockin application; they reel ou away from flash and lock you in to Windows.
      • by jgs (245596)

        Thanks, but I think these (modulo the "problems with Firefox" item) basically come under the "DRM is bad" and "Microsoft is bad" umbrella, at least to my way of thinking. I guess I should have added that I'm not really looking for reasons having to do with business practices or philosophy. I don't mean to trivialize the importance of such things, but they're just not what I'm looking to discuss right now -- I understand these arguments well already. What I'm looking for are specific technical reasons not

        • by Foofoobar (318279) on Monday November 03, 2008 @12:10PM (#25613381)
          Cross platform compatibility should rank high. When apple laptop sales are over 40% on campuses and over 33% in the overall market, you are guaranteed that apple will be in your business. Linux is ALREADY in your business if you have sys admins or developers. Silverlight relies on Microsoft products that are not available to these platforms. Your mac will not be able to play alot of data that Slverlight uses. You are at the mercy of a company that is not releasing all their codecs, apis that Silverlight uses.

          Flash on the otherhand is much more open.
          • by jgs (245596)

            That sounds like a good reason not to select Silverlight if I wanted to deliver some kind of media myself. But I'm looking at this from the perspective of a consumer -- specifically, of a (prospective) user of Netflix's streaming video. Silverlight is already "cross platform" at least to the extent of being supported on Macs as well as Windows, else we wouldn't be having this conversation. Beyond that, why should I, from my narrow perspective, care about how cross platform it is if all I want to do is wa

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If you trust Microsoft not to screw you over, there is no reason to avoid Silverlight. There is no reason to hate Silverlight (the tech) at all, however some might take issue with the strategic purpose of it (which can be *very* important to you as a user).

      Personally I think it's an embrace, extend and extinguish move much like IE was in its time - when it becomes prevalent enough, the windows version will get more features and the mac/linux version be left to wither. For the full experience you'll be expec

      • by jgs (245596) on Monday November 03, 2008 @12:17PM (#25613517)

        I take your point. On the other hand, I don't see the individual Mac (or Linux, etc) user having a whole lot of leverage in this situation. Up until now with Netflix's streaming video, the Windows version hasn't merely had "more features" but rather all the features since Macs haven't been supported at all. And since streaming video is not the primary reason I (or I'd venture to guess most people) subscribe to Netflix, I'm not about to fire Netflix over this lack... which means they're not particularly motivated to fix it.

        The counter-argument is that clearly Netflix must perceive some benefit from having their subscribers stream video, else they wouldn't be offering the service at all. But the question as I see it is whether my refusal (and that of some other subset of Mac using Netflix subscribers) to adopt Silverlight and thus the streaming service would make enough of a dent in their overall business strategy to warrant a change in the technology they've adopted. My guess is that it wouldn't.

        So I'm not quite sure what the "valuable lesson" is that I'm expected to learn. That I as an individual have very little leverage over ginormous corporations? And that they want to screw me? I learned those ones a long time ago.

        Darn, I said I didn't want to discuss business strategies. Oh well.

        • So I'm not quite sure what the "valuable lesson" is that I'm expected to learn.

          Just that you can be caught out by your choices of technology and a naive trust in (or disregard for) the motives of producers. If you start using the service from Netflix, then in a few years are forced to switch to Windows to continue your subscription for example, or if you save all your documents in word format on your mac, then in five years are forced to switch to Windows to keep reading them properly, you might find a lesson in that.

          That I as an individual have very little leverage over ginormous corporations? And that they want to screw me? I learned those ones a long time ago.

          Well, given your disregard for the intentions of MS re. Silverlight,

  • You can't opt back out of the beta once you opt in, so caveat emptor. I learned this the hard way after I found out that the Silverlight player doesn't seem to utilize the full-screen video overlay when playing over s-video from my laptop.

  • All the Silverlight griping aside, I am already watching Dr. Who season 1 on my macbook, and it makes me quite happy. :D

    -G

  • by tji (74570)

    It's nice to have the option for more content on my Mac Mini HTPC. I primarily use it for Broadcast HDTV via MythTV and DVDs from Netflix. So, this give a whole new source of content.

    I have been using it for a few days, with mixed results.

    - The quality is not great, and can vary widely. It seems to adapt to your internet connection speed. So, I think my Comcast "Burst then throttle" service screws it up. I often get the message saying needs to re-buffer.

    - It's completely browser based. So, no integ

  • I have been trying the Mac/Silverlight version, and found the quality to be a bit lacking.

    I had been considering buying one of the LG Blueray DVD players, in large part because it supports Netflix streaming.

    Has anyone compared both viewing methods? Can I expect better quality via the hardware decoder (LG player or Netflix's Roku box)?

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