Compared to the Xbox 360, the Playstation 3’s Netflix app was a lesser version for one simple reason: To watch streaming video, you had to get up from your comfy couch and put in a disc.
On Monday, October 18, Sony will get the upper hand. Not only will Netflix for Playstation 3 go disc-free, it will also add Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround sound, subtitles and, for a small number of videos, 1080i streaming. The Xbox 360 doesn’t yet offer these features, and the Wii, which still requires a disc for Netflix streaming, runs only in 480p.
Sony’s Playstation Blog has posted a video of the new Netflix streaming app, and it looks pretty good. Movie selections are displayed in a grid, instead of the Xbox 360’s harder-to-navigate strip, and the menu system has logical hierarchy of new releases, genres and your instant queue. Best of all, the PS3’s native Netflix app adds search, which the Xbox 360 also gets in its latest dashboard update. I don’t see any way to manage your DVD queue, as you can on the Xbox 360.
The disc-free option for PS3 probably means that Microsoft’s exclusivity window for Netflix streaming is completely kaput. Now it’s just a matter of creating the best Netflix experience to attract console buyers. Maybe Microsoft will consider dropping the requirement to have an Xbox Live Gold subscription, but probably not.