Netflix Box Is Appealing, but Not Enough

Device brings Internet downloads to the TV, but it needs to be in the set itself.

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The first Netflix box has appeared and looks promising. The online rental giant has teamed up with electronics maker Roku to release a $100 device that allows near-instant watching of movies and TV across the Internet.

The online videos are free to Netflix members, who typically pay $18 a month to get disks through the mail. But until now, the service was available only on PCs, or on the TVs of the few of us geeks who have connected one to a computer.

Initial reviews are positive, at least for how the device operates. One question is the video selection, which at some 10,000 titles is well short of what Netflix offers on disk. But we've used the download service quite a bit and think it's easy to find something good to watch.

Michael Arrington at TechCrunch calls the service a compelling add-on for Netflix users: "Free is such a beautiful word."

But others point out that while the service is free to subscribers, getting it into the living room means paying $100 and installing another box. That's a formula for a flop, Thomas Hawk says in his Digital Connection blog.

I think the argument against Netflix's or other new boxes is a strong one. That's the biggest rip on Vudu, another device that downloads commercial video from the Internet.

The services need to get themselves integrated into other gadgets, such as game consoles, DVD players, and new, connected televisions themselves. Netflix has said it's pursuing those kinds of deals. It needs them—and with bigger partners than Roku.


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