From red mailers to black boxes
I'm so torn over the $100 Wi-Fi box that Netflix
As you can imagine, you won't be streaming 27 Dresses or National Treasure 2 through the box. Slightly more than 10% of the 100,000 titles in the Netflix library are available, limited mostly to television shows and obscure films whose studios aren't commanding a king's ransom in revenue-sharing deals.
On the upside, the streaming is free for existing Netflix subscribers on unlimited rental plans. That free lunch isn't necessarily convenient, though. To see a film, you first have to add it to your Netflix queue from your PC, since you can't add films from the box itself. The box also doesn't have a hard drive; it's simply streaming the film after a short delay for buffering.
Ultimately, Netflix subscribers will need to decide whether the Roku device is worth the $100 cost, the content limitations, or the need to tether one more contraption to your home theater system.
If successful, it will be a big win for Netflix. Someone who invests $100 in hardware won't turn around and cancel a Netflix subscription anytime soon. How Netflix will be able to turn a profit serving free movies, beyond the customer-retention benefit, remains to be seen.
Imagine that: Something on Netflix that has yet to be seen.
Briefly in the news
And now let's take a quick look at some of the other stories that shaped our week.
Barnes & Noble
is exploring the purchase of Borders (NYSE: BKS) . Some people fear that the deal would hit antitrust snags. Where are these people? 1995? Borders is a fading chain, and both retailers combine for just a third of overall book sales these days. Monopoly? This is barely Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues. (NYSE: BGP)
introduced Live Search Cashback, where users can receive cash rebates on purchases from participating merchants when they shop online through Microsoft's Live.com search engine. It's a gutsy move, but how much will Microsoft pay me to stop short of calling it desperate? Just kidding, of course. I actually like this idea. If Mr. Softy wants a shot at Google (Nasdaq: MSFT) , it's going to have to bulk up its traffic -- even if that means paying for it. (Nasdaq: GOOG)
- As oil prices barrel toward all-time highs, investors are turning again to solar energy stocks. Seriously, did you ever think that "photovoltaic" would become a household word?
XM Satellite Radio
launched a television marketing campaign for its NavTraffic service, which monitors traffic in major metropolitan areas. Hopefully, it can use that service to find Sirius Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: XMSR) . The FCC must be hiding it somewhere around here ... (Nasdaq: SIRI)
Until next week, I remain,