MS Announces Netflix Deal, Media Center Streaming

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has announced it will stream movies from Netflix through its Windows Media Center software. It's a major breakthrough in the firm's attempt to make sure that PCs can compete with game consoles and dedicated devices in the streaming market.

Netflix already provides Xbox 360 DVD rentals, allowing customers to watch directly on their TV sets. Until now, PC users had only been able to watch streaming movies from Netfix on their computer screens. Streaming it to a TV set could only be done through "unofficial" methods and copy protection meant the resulting image would be of a low quality, particularly on larger TV screens. And because the workarounds were unofficial, they often stopped working whenever the Netflix user interface changed.

Instant Gratification

With the new deal, around 12,000 Netflix titles will be available for instant viewing directly through the Windows Media Center. That's Microsoft's home entertainment software, which is designed for use on both computers connected directly to a large TV screen and through wireless connections to 'extender' boxes which plug in to a TV. The software is specially designed to be operated by a remote control rather than a full-fledged keyboard.

The deal with Netflix also means users will be able to browse the full 100,000-strong DVD catalogue and order rental discs on their TV sets using the remote rather than have to go to their computer; of course, they'll still have to wait for the discs to arrive in the mail. (Source:

Extender Boxes Still Not Supported

One surprise at the moment is that the Netflix streaming only works on PCs connected directly to a TV screen and doesn't support the extender boxes. It's also only available on Vista and not the various test editions of Windows 7, though it seems inevitable it will work with Windows Media Center in the final release of the new operating system. (Source:

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