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Netflix Begins Rollout of 2G Player for Near-HD Streaming

Netflix, the DVD/Blu-ray rental firm that uses the U.S. mail and broadband to deliver video programming to its 8.7 million subscribers, has begun a soft launch of its second-generation Microsoft Silverlight media player to further encourage instant viewing on its Web site that includes a growing list of titles.

This first upgrade of the Silverlight media streamer for Netflix, whose first-gen edition was deployed by NBC Universal during its multi-platform Olympics coverage a couple of months ago, supposedly prompts faster downloads and more robust video imaging approximating 720p quality than its earlier version (depending, as usual, on computer monitor quality and individual download speeds, although Silverlight technology adjusts streaming based on download capacity).

Unlike the first-gen version, Netflix's new media player from Microsoft is compatible with Apple Macintosh machines (albeit Intel-based Macs only).

Netflix, based in Los Gatos, Calif., said among the latest version's enhancements is a "breakthrough in timeline navigation" that improves the use of fast-forward and rewind options.

In addition to use of PCs and Macs via the Silverlight player, Netflix subs can also stream near-HD content using LG Electronics' BD300 Blu-ray player, Samsung's BD-P2550 and BD-P2500 Blu-ray players, and (coming soon) Microsoft's latest Xbox 360 game console.

Free 2G software upgrades will be made available to all Netflix members over the next couple of months.