Netflix "Watch Now" feature offers movie download alternative

Just as online music stores introduced the "rental" model to music listeners, it looks like we're finally getting beyond the rent / purchase model for online movies, with Netflix mixing things up with its new Watch Now feature. A user gets an hour of video watching for every dollar they spend monthly on the service -- a $17.99 subscriber gets 18 free hours of video. There's no concept of buying or renting a movie, instead you just watch what you want to watch, with every minute spent watching each movie counting against your total, but nothing more. This helps users catch the last few minutes of recent rentals they might not have finished, or preview a bit -- or the whole thing -- of a prospective selection. With a good enough connection, the quality apparently approaches DVD, but there aren't any portability options or DVD burning here: it's all browser based and not a whole lot more. The feature is also XP only at the moment, but Netflix hopes to expand to other platforms, including cellphones. Currently there are roughly 1,000 titles available, which Netflix hopes to expand to 5,000 this year. Netflix is live with Watch Now for select customers right now, and will slowly expand to the rest of its subscribers over the next six months. It seems we've been waiting for Netflix to get into this gig for years -- oh wait, we have -- and while it does seem to be taking a bit different angle to the biz, we're glad to have 'em all the same.