The Future Is Here

Posted: January 25, 2007 in Random Thoughts

Every now and then I use a piece of technology that really stands out as a big step forward, something that makes you involuntarily say “this changes everything”.

The first time I saw HTML, used email, a mobile phone, a digital camera, skype. I’ve jsut noticed all of those things happened during visits to the US. I guess it’s true, they really are 5-10 years ahead of Europe.

Last night it happened again. Since September we’ve been using Netflix for our DVD rental needs. The discs arive in the mail, we watch them and drop them back in the mail box outside our door. A day or two later another disc arrives. We manage the list of disks we want through the netflix.com website.

It works, and I love it. There have been a few hiccups. 3 discs so far have been cracked, one or two more were scratched and unplayable. But they ship replacements fast, and the list of movies we’ve gotten through since September is impressive.

Last night, “The Corporation” arrived, cracked, unplayable. When I logged in to report the damage and request a replacement, I noticed that the new “Watch It Now” service had been launched.

I tried it out, and it works perfectly. A quick trip to Walmart for an SVGA cable and we watched “Clue” on our living room TV. The streaming started immediately, and there were no pauses or skips. The quality was excellent, although our TV isn’t a good machine for checking quality.

Now you might wonder why we would choose “Clue” of all the movies we could have chosen. Here’s the only problem. The selection is very very poor. Apart from the fact that there aren’t many movies and TV shows to choose from, those that are there are pretty pad. Clue is a fine movie and a good laugh, but it’s not great.

This is a pilot program, we are apparently one of the few to get early access to it, it will be rolled out to all Netflix subscribers over the next few months. I’m sure the selection of movies will improve.

It will need to. This move has been prompted by competition from Blockbuster who have been touting the fact that they have a network of stores which you can use in addition to their mail service. Netflix have hit back with instant gratification from downloads. The licencing costs of this are enough to wipe out almost all of their profits. So for it to work it needs to attract a lot of new customers.

But here’s the rub. Now that Netflix customers like me are being turned on to instant streaming movies, we might start looking at some of Netflix other competitors like Vongo who have streaming movies and a better selection of movies.

For now we’ll stick with Netflix, for the $15 a month we spend we get as many DVD’s a month as we can watch and ship back and forth, along with 15 hours of streaming viewing.

Regardless of who we settle on, instant movies and TV shows streamed over the internet is here. TV will never be the same again.

This changes everything.

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