Netflix Streaming Finally Coming to the Mac

Windows PC owners have been able to enjoy Netflix's Watch Instantly movie and TV streaming service since January 2007. The service even significantly expanded the quantity and quality of its streaming content recently by partnering with CBS Television Network, Disney-ABC Television Group, and Starz Entertainment. But Netflix customers who own Macs have been all but left out in the cold. The Netflix Watch Instantly service currently doesn't work on Macs. The only way a Mac user could use the service would be to use in on a Windows partition running Boot Camp. But this is all about to change, thanks to none other than Microsoft...

If you spent any amount of time online this last August, you would have had a hard time not knowing that NBC was streaming thousands of hours of Olympic coverage online--much of it live. This monumental undertaking was offered up as the grand debut of Microsoft's Silverlight browser plug-in technology, Microsoft's direct competitor to Adobe Flash, JavaScript, and other similar rich-media Web-based technologies. Silverlight worked well on both Windows PCs and Macs and it helped make NBC's online Olympic coverage an instant hit. Apparently the folks over at Netflix took notice and starting eyeing Silverlight as the possible successor to it current streaming technology, which would finally bring Watch Instantly streaming to the Mac. There was only one fly in the ointment, however: Silverlight didn't utilize the level of DRM that would keep many of Netflix's streaming content's copyright holders happy.

Fast-forward to earlier this month when Microsoft released Silverlight 2.0 with more advanced DRM, using Microsoft's own PlayReady DRM engine. With this key piece of technology in place, Netflix could now finally get the gears in motion to make its Mac users happier. As such, Netflix has just announced that it will be transitioning its Watch Instantly service over to the Silverlight 2.0 platform over the coming months, with the expectation that it will reach all Netflix subscribers by the end of this year. This means that all Netflix users who want to utilize the Watch Instantly service--on both Windows and Mac systems--will have to install the (free) Silverlight 2.0 plug-in once their subscription has transitioned over to the Silverlight platform.

This is obviously great news for Mac owners, but Windows PC users might be wondering why they should have to go through the hassle just to accommodate a small percentage of Netflix's customers. According to Netflix, the transition over to Silverlight is not just about the Mac. Netflix claims that Silverlight will provide: "a faster, easier connection and a more robust viewing experience," as well as a number of "viewing enhancements" including "a breakthrough in timeline navigation that vastly improves the use of fast-forwarding and rewinding."

The only caveat for Mac owners is that Silverlight only works on Intel-based Macs. According to Netflix about 75-percent of its Mac user-base currently uses Intel-based Macs. The other 25 percent, who are still using older PowerPC-based Macs, will not be able to use the Watch Instantly streaming service. If you are a PowerPC-based Mac owner who is jonesing to take advantage of Netflix's Watch Instantly streaming service, perhaps now is a good time to upgrade to an Intel-based Mac.
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