Netflix is rolling out its “Watch Now” service, for watching movies immediately on your computer. If you’re a Netflix subscriber, the tab will appear with no fanfare on your Netflix web page – all subscribers should have it by the end of June. If you want a head start, Gizmodo has a couple of suggestions that have caused it to appear right away for some people.

The streaming video is included free with your subscription – you’re given 1 hour per month for each dollar of your subscription cost. There are currently a thousand movies available, which sounds like a lot until you discover that the selection includes The Man With The Screaming Brain and Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. That’s not really fair – there’s an interesting mix of old and new, good and bad, well-known and obscure.

A viewer has to be installed – a small download that installed nicely on my Vista system. The movies appear in Internet Explorer and a button-click runs them full screen.

The Netflix viewer measures the speed of the Internet connection and adjusts the video quality accordingly. On my premium Comcast connection, the movies began playing almost instantly, played without a skip, and video quality was quite good – not quite DVD quality but surprisingly close. Your mileage may vary!

This is a promising beginning for movies on demand, and a very nice thing for Netflix to do for free. After the novelty value wears off, though, you might bypass it because of its central limitation: the movies can only be played on a computer, and that’s just not what most people do. (I do, but I have a lot of other social issues too.) The movies can’t be burned to a DVD, can’t be loaded onto a portable device, and can’t be played on the TV in the living room.

(Hmm. JCVH – an award-winning low-budget film with Jesus and retired Mexican Wrestling Foundation champion El Santos fighting vampires and saving lesbians. I’ve gotta watch this.)

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