Netflix streaming support is on tons of devices — computers, media centers (like Boxee), electronic devices (like the Roku), Blu-ray players and game consoles (like the X-Box 360, the PS3 and soon Nintendo’s Wii). The next device on that list might end up being the iPhone.
Last fall, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said that the streaming rental service would be coming to the iPhone “eventually,” but offered no further information or plans. While there doesn’t appear to be any concrete development, Hacking Netflix has reported on a new question from a recent Netflix user survey.
Here’s the text of that survey question:
“Imagine that Netflix offers its subscribers the ability to instantly watch movies & TV episodes on their iPhone. The selection availability to instantly watch includes some new releases, lots of classics and TV episodes. There are no advertisements or trailers, and movies start in as little as 30 seconds. You can fast-forward, rewind, and pause or watch again. The movies & TV episodes you instantly watch are included in your Netflix membership for no additional fee.
Whenever you want to instantly watch content on your iPhone, your iPhone must be connected to a Wi-Fi network (such as one you might have at home or at work, or in public places like coffee shops, book stores, hotels, airports, etc.)
If this functionality were available, how likely would you or someone in your household be to instantly watch movies & TV episodes on your iPhone via a Wi-Fi network?”
In the past, these sorts of survey questions have proven to be indicative of future streaming plans (the PS3 streaming question pre-dated the feature’s arrival by about seven months), but what strikes us as particularly interesting is the very clear “over Wi-Fi” language.
As we discussed in our piece about Hulu coming to the iPad, the biggest hurdle with getting services like Hulu and Netflix to devices like the iPhone, iPad and other mobile phones isn’t the technology — that’s a barrier that can be overcome — it’s the licensing.
The streaming rights for devices like a PS3, a computer or a Roku box are different from the mobile streaming rights. How mobile devices are defined is unclear, but it might be as simple as “connects over a mobile broadband network” versus “connects over Wi-Fi.” The argument could be: It doesn’t matter how portable a device is, if it’s only connecting over Wi-Fi, it’s not a mobile device in the contractual sense.
That rationale would obviously get Netflix to iPhone or iPad users much more quickly — and it might be why the company is sussing out interest in Wi-Fi-only streaming ability.
Of course, this is pure conjecture on our part — but Netflix is a company that isn’t afraid of exploiting loopholes to deliver content to its users.
We’ll ask you the same question Netflix asked customers: Would you be interested in Netflix on the iPhone, with the understanding that you could only use it when connected to a Wi-Fi network? Let us know in the comments!