Starting yesterday, Vista users can watch Netflix streaming movies and manage both instant and DVD queues using a slick new Windows Media Center interface. Pretty nice, but if you were hoping for HD videos or the ability to stream Netflix movies to a TV via Windows Media Extender, you’re outta luck.
The familiar Netflix logo and color scheme is present and accounted for, along with a horizontal row of browsing options. You can browse and organize your instant viewing queue, of course, but you can also tinker with your DVD queue, which is a nice touch.
And another catch (which practically knocked me out of my chair during the Q&A session): If you’re using Windows Media Extender to stream Windows Media Center playback to a TV (or any Extender-enabled gadget), you won’t be able to use the Netflix player. Why? Good question; the Microsoft reps on hand Tuesday would only say that they’re focusing on the PC side of the Windows Media Center equation. (Of course, you could always just hook your laptop/desktop directly to your TV, although it’s not the most elegant setup.)
So … while I’m pleased with the look and feel of the new Netflix interface on Windows Media Center, I’m not seeing a huge benefit over the already easy-to-use Netflix Web site.
And while Microsoft reps emphasize that they’re trying to make WMC the go-to place for video on the Web, its still missing some big pieces of the puzzle—think YouTube, Hulu, TV.com, and so on. When (and if) Microsoft finally integrates more of the big online video services into Media Center, we might really have something.