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New Media Center content from Microsoft . . . Netflix!

Netflix and Media Center officially get together.

“The Netflix in Windows Media Center application lets you browse personalized lists of over 12,000 Netflix movies and TV shows you can watch instantly in Windows Media Center. In addition to these personalized lists, you can search a list of over 100,000 Netflix movies and TV shows you can either watch instantly or add to your DVD queue. You can view, add, and remove items from your Netflix instant watch, and DVD queues.”

As this article is being posted, Microsoft is begining to push out the latest enhancement to Media Center in Windows Vista. Native Netflix in Media Center! Once the update is downloaded you will notice a new badge on the Media Center Homepage. Netflix. Clicking on the badge will bring you to an installation page where you will be given the option to download and install the netflix application. If you choose to install Netflix, you will leave Media Center and a browser will open to download and install the application.

The current incarnation of Netflix in Media Center works ONLY in

· Windows Vista RTM, SP1 or SP2 (X86 or X64)

· Windows Vista with TV Pack 2008 (Codename Fiji)

Windows 7 is not currently supported.

Extenders are not currently supported (I know, I know. When will they learn that extenders are important?)

You will need a Netflix account with Instant Watch ability. Or start a Free Trial account.

Media Center must be configured before installation.

Silverlight will be installed with the Netflix app.

If you have any custom menu strips they will be removed when the Netflix Add-in is installed. You will have to use something like MenuMender to add the custom menus back in.

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The first time you open the Netflix application you’re presented with the option to enter your Netflix Username and Password or the option to start a trial account.

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If you already have a Netflix account, any movies that are in your DVD Queue will show up in the window. If you did not have an account or there’s nothing in your Queue, you can use the search feature to add movies to either the DVD Queue or the Instant Queue.

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I just quickly went through and added a bunch of movies to the Instant Queue. I actually found it easier to go to the Netflix website (from my laptop) and add them from there. It was quicker and easier to search using the mouse and keyboard.

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Once you have added items to the Instant Queue, you can access them from Media Center. It took about ten minutes for the list to populate after adding them from the website.

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Once you have selected a movie to watch, click on it and it brings you to the “Play” screen, here you can play the movie, Remove it from the queue, Add it to the “DVD Queue” (To receive a DVD in the mail) or “Find Related” which is a feature I really like.

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The “Find Related” feature does a search based on the actors, Genre and/or movie description. It then pulls up other titles with the same actors or subject matter that you may like. Here I scrolled down a little so that you can see that it doesn’t just pull up other Arnold movies. J

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If you choose to play the video, the app will test your connection speed and select a video quality that will be appropriate for your connection (and keep the video smooth and without buffer pauses) the video will buffer and depending on your internet connection will begin to play in 10-15 seconds. I have a fairly fast connection, so I think that I’m getting High Quality video. It looks very good for a streaming full screen video (this is NOT Internet TV quality). Of course there is some pixilation and a little artifacting (The square blocks that appear now and then in the video), but the quality is surprisingly good and well worth it for the ability to play a movie On Demand.

There are some quirky bugs that happen from time to time. But I’m running beta software and they should be worked out at release.

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Pete Stagman is the President of the New England Digital Media User Group. www.nedmug.com

You can read more of his blogs here

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