Sony announced today that starting on October 18th you will no longer need the Netflix disc in your PS3 in order to stream Netflix movies to the device. Instead you'll be able to get a native application which will allow you to launch the service directly from the XMB bar which removes one annoyance from using the service on the PS3.
The native application will also be getting a bit of a make-over and you'll finally be able to search for content within the application and it looks like they've tweaked the code a bit to lower the amount of time it will take to start playback.
This is certainly good news for PlayStation 3 owners as it puts their version on par with the version that's been shipped out to Xbox 360 owners. The real question now is if Wii owners will get something similar and if so when will they get it.
-Update (John) : The other big news in the news release is that it will be the first consumer electronics device that supports 5.1-channel surround sound. While other devices got HD first, the PS3 gets surround sound first, which can greatly enhance a movie if you have the equipment to take advantage of it. Also, here's a video showing off the new feature.
Sony Computer Entertainment America, LLC (SCEA) today announced that streaming from Netflix will be available on the PlayStation®3 (PS3™) system as a native application in the United States on October 18, 2010. Instantly watching movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix on the PS3 system previously required an instant streaming disc, and now PS3 system owners will have the added convenience of enjoying videos streamed from Netflix directly from the XMB™ (XrossMediaBar) menu. Additionally, the PS3 system will be the first consumer electronics device to support 5.1-channel surround sound on movies and TV shows streamed from Netflix, as announced by Netflix and Dolby Laboratories, Inc. today.
Several new enhancements are coming to the Netflix experience on the PS3 system that will make watching your favorite movies and TV shows better than ever. PS3 system owners with Netflix memberships will receive all of the new features at no additional cost to their Netflix monthly subscription.
* Movies and TV shows from Netflix will be accessible from PS3’s XMB menu under a new Netflix icon under the Video category. To access Netflix, PS3 owners will need to sign-in with their PlayStation®Network account.
* Support for Dolby Digital Plus 5.1-channel surround sound will enable users to experience premium-quality audio.
* A new user interface, including the recently added search functionality, will deliver a much richer and faster browsing experience, making it easier to find the specific titles you’re looking for or to discover new content.
* Some movies and TV shows will be viewable in 1080i resolution, offering an enhanced visual experience as more consumers adopt HDTVs.
* The amount of time to start playback will be improved.
* An increasing number of movies and TV shows will be viewable with subtitles or alternate audio tracks.
“With a new look and feel plus additional features such as 5.1 surround sound, Netflix on the PlayStation 3 delivers an amazing viewing experience for enjoying movies and TV shows streamed from the Internet to your living room,” said Greg Peters, Netflix vice president, product development. “We expect PS3 owners who have been instantly watching movies and TV shows streamed from Netflix will be pleased with the continued enhancements that we’re offering.”
Netflix has been available since November 2009 to U.S. PS3 system owners who are Netflix members and since last month to Canadian PS3 system owners when Netflix launched the service in Canada. Today’s announcement reinforces the PS3 system’s position as the most complete home entertainment hub on the market, enabling consumers to play HD games, watch Blu-ray Disc movies, listen to music, view photos, browse the Internet, and download content from the PlayStation Network, which has evolved into an innovative and all-in-one entertainment destination for PS3 owners.