Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Netflix drops DVDs from streaming devices, owns net bandwidth. Wow.

Big News #1: Netflix blogged that it's dropping the "Add to DVD Queue" button on any streaming device. You can't add dvds from any non-computer, streaming gadget - Ipad, Ipod Touch, PS3... Big News #2: Netflix may ditch DVDs completely because virtual=cheap - and its Streaming service may engulf a big chunk of the internet.

I guess you can see why I felt like I had to post again so soon. Before discussing the first bit o news, I'll give you the chance to see whether it'll bother you. That's the bottom line right? Well, the list of devices is all broken up on Netflix' site. So I actually took the trouble to write it out for anyone who's actually interested. It helped me feel like I wasn't just parroting another person's good work.

No seriously - you should know this already, but follow the link to see if this will impact your Netflix Streaming Capable Blu-RayPlayer, or Home Theater System, or Streaming Player (like Roku), or Mobile Device, or Game System, or HDTV, or DVR (just TiVo). It was kind of annoying to do, but I might as well go all the way, right?

That's all out of the way, now; I can actually add some thoughts... I guess I chose the right name for my blog, though I didn't select it because of the company. Honestly, I believed it was extra-clever because I had just started using Netflix. Yes, I waited until 2009 to join. Laugh now.

#1 - This afternoon, at my job, I noticed a news article during my lunch break. I knew I'd have to devote some time to writing today afterward. In fact, I probably should've noticed the post on the Netflix blog, but I've been working hard. Like, "deadly" hard.

I guess that, for some, this may technically reach you without truly annoying you. For example, if you're doing well enough that you own the HDTVs, DVRs, Blu-Ray Players, and Home Theater Systems involved, then you definitely have a laptop or desktop. Even if you watch a video you love, and decide to catch the dvds - for extras, because later dvds haven't gone streaming yet - you'll surely be able to grab your Macbook Air or something and get onto the internet to add the dvd from your computer's browser.

That certainly doesn't sound like asking a lot from someone, does it? Being in your home, having high-end devices that are working through a 'net connection... These things mean that you shouldn't complain about the 10 extra seconds it'll take to reach some kind of computer. Surely, it's not tedious to add the discs that way, and Netflix claims it will free up lots of resources for their website. Fair enough.

However, the gaming system set might be different. Surely, the Wii doesn't cost much at all, so it's not like it only hits the well-off. Also, some people use public pc's (e.g., students), and/or don't have more than their precious Xbox 360... As for streaming players - I know Roku is pretty cost-efficient, too. In any case, this decision will hit people who don't necessarily have a computer nearby.

Of course, this goes triple for people who either watch or browse Netflix through their Ipad, Windows Phone 7, or Ipod Touch. You'll probably check the site from a Starbucks or an auditorium, the airport, or even an over-priced bar. How is someone going to rent "Basic Instinct" after they just struck out at the club, yo? Now, many people might find themselves asking that very question...

In all seriousness, I do see how it can be a hassle. If I used the internet features on my phone, I certainly would have used it to add some DVD to my queue by now. It would have been something you can't stream, like "Notorious" or "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars: The Motion Picture." When a friend gets you excited for something (or you're flirting with someone) and you're used to these devices, you want them to do what they should be able to do.

For all of you who fit into the last three paragraphs, your lives have gotten a little more annoying. I'd say it shouldn't be too harsh; think about it - you're planning your DVD rentals from the bit of tech you can use to watch some of them right now. It could be worse. And, let's be honest - how many pictures do you already have in your DVD queue, right?

You should know: I am trying to make this article my own, not rehash others' news. Nor am I disparaging that yahoo article above when I claim that it largely focuses on the angry backlash to Netflix' announcement. Some of that reaction is in the comments section to the Netflix blog post I linked to earlier; the rest you can find in the article itself. I think you can tell - I can see this is a nuisance for some, but it shouldn't be too big a deal for most anyone.

#2 -Which is what makes me surprised to find that I've written so much without addressing the really big news. That yahoo article was certainly great for linking to another article on how Netflix sort of threatens the whole Internet... Slate has an article titled, "Will Netflix Destroy the Internet?" No, really, it's from November 2, 2010, so it's really impressive to read it now. I truly thank yahoo for getting me there...

I respect Slate a lot, so (like with the yahoo article) I won't take their links and re-post them here. Cheap, lame, cheating.... I'll simply outline the two highlights there: reports show that (a) Netflix really likes the idea of getting rid of DVDs altogether, and streaming-only "would lower costs;" other reports show that (b) the bandwidth usage for Netflix instant streaming is outstripping all possible competition.

That last tidbit starts in the third paragraph of Farhad Manjoo's Slate article (no, I don't know him, I'm impressed and grateful). Netflix' streaming beats Youtube, Hulu, ITunes, and even BitTorrent(really!?) in share of Internet usage. The figures are impressive and massive.

The logical connection you get from that fact: the Internet would be choked up movie-watching "humans" if a huge fraction of Netflix users actually stuck around when the company ditches DVDs. If you follow the links, you'll see it was a pretty big number at least 3 months ago. If the DVD side of the business just stopped, even a modest crossover would make the figures a shock to read.

I don't know whether you care that the Internet might start to drown on mere video-watching alone. If you're reading this, much less listening to something on Pandora or Youtube, then you're definitely going to be genuinely inconvenienced when every single page loads more slowly. Online banking? Sorry, you might time out because someone wants to see "Deuce Bigalow."

On the other hand, new technologies might reduce the impact of this. It's not like I know of any right now. mind - I try to stay positive, that's all. Still, as much as I love movies, I sort of hate to think that this great information resource would go mostly into the passive of act of sitting and staring at a screen. I guess I'm overdue for an extreme sports vacation or something...

In any case, I hope you've found this bit of news interesting. Of course, my mind is already starting to wonder whether we'll end up with two streaming-only giants (Netflix and Hulu); also, how long it'll take before they're eventually merged, and whether a merger like that would be permitted by the SEC. I mean, if the Sirius and XM merger didn't count as a monopoly, what does?

PS - if you're wondering how to pronounce
say it like "Netflix" then add an "s." You don't have to be too long or short with it. Just try.

And here is My Annoyingly Long List of Deviced Effected by Netflix's New Limitation of the "Add to DVD Queue" Feature

Insignia Connected, LG Network, Panasonic & Yamaha Networking, Philips' "Netflix Ready" line, Pioneer's "Internet Connected" brand, Samsung & Sony Network, Toshiba models with "video streaming," and the Vizio Blu-ray Player with Wireless Internet Apps.

Home Theater Systems:
Samsung, Insignia, Panasonic, LG's, and Sony's (3D!) respective Home Theater Systems

Streaming Players:
WD TV Network Media Players, Sony Dash Personal Internet Viewer, Sony Network Media Player, Logitech Revue with Google TVLogitech Revue with Google TV, Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ HD Media Player, Roku Streaming Player, Windows Phone 7, and Apple TV

Mobile Devices:
Ipad, Ipod Touch, and Windows Phone 7

Game Systems:
Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii

Panasonic's Viera, Vizio's XTV with Vizio Internet Apps, Sony Bravia, Sanyo & Samsung LED HDTVs, and LG HDTVs with Netcast Broadband

"just" the TiVo.

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