Movies streaming goes high-def

ON GADGETS

January 27, 2009|By KEVIN HUNT | KEVIN HUNT,Hartford Courant

Movies streamed over the Internet are showing up in a lot of places other than computers, whether delivered by an Xbox 360 video-game console, a Roku set-top box or, soon, Internet-enabled HDTVs.

The most improbable partnership remains Blu-ray players that offer movies streamed by Netflix.

Wasn't the Internet supposed to extinguish Blu-ray, just as downloaded music beat down the CD?

But there's probably room for both, at least for now, as long as the Netflix service and others like it can't match Blu-ray's hi-def picture. Streaming video, if you're new to the game, is a way to watch movies, television shows or homemade video on a computer without downloading the complete files. Most people still don't have Internet speeds fast enough to download such large files. But with streaming video, anyone can watch. YouTube is the most famous source of streaming-video clips.

Streaming video isn't going away, either. Now it's complete movies and television shows. Netflix's streaming is also available through Microsoft's Xbox Live service, in TiVo boxes and a $99 Netflix-only box from Roku. Amazon.com's Video On Demand service is also available with Tivo and Roku. Apple TV ($230) is a direct link to the iTunes video library. The PlayStation 3, the gaming console and also a Blu-ray player, added movie downloads several months ago. Even Blockbuster, the plodding DVD rental company, has again countered Netflix with the $99 MediaPoint box.

And things will get better. LG introduced two Netflix/Blu-ray players at the recent Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, including one (the BD390) coming later this year that has built-in Wi-Fi and built-in memory. Both players will also have video streaming from YouTube and CinemaNow, with its 10,000-plus movie library.

As Internet speeds quicken, and with improvements in delivering downloadable movies in compressed files that still contain full-HD material, video on demand may, indeed, replace both Blu-ray and DVD. For now, a Blu-ray player with Netflix streaming could be the bridge to that not-too-far-off future.

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