A little more than a month after Microsoft improved its Xbox 360 Netflix streaming feature, Sony finally brought Netflix to the PlayStation 3 on Monday. The new feature comes just in time for the holidays, when the two consoles, along with Nintendo's Wii, are expected to battle it out on store shelves with lowered prices and exclusive games.
With Netflix now on the PS3, I started wondering how far apart Microsoft's and Sony's consoles are when it comes to non-gaming features. Is Netflix really the great equalizer, as PC World's Matt Peckham suggests? Let's take a look at the highlights:
The Xbox 360 wins here, with exclusive social networking access including Facebook, Last.fm, and Twitter integration. You can upload screenshots of your game progress to your Wall, update your status, or view your News Feed and photos on Facebook. Last.fm allows Xbox LIVE Gold members to listen to personalized music streams through their consoles, and Twitter lets you send out 140-character messages straight from the Xbox 360. The closest the PS3 has to this at the moment is the ability for Uncharted 2 to automatically send out tweets while you progress through the game. Just like Netflix, don't expect social networking features to remain an Xbox exclusive forever.
Perhaps one of the PS3's biggest advantage over the Xbox 360 is Sony's integration with the PlayStation Portable. A feature, called Remote Play, gives PS3 owners remote access to non-gaming content stored on their consoles including videos, photos and music via their PSP. Microsoft doesn't have a mobile gaming platform to compete with this functionality; however, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Shane Kim recently said it's only a matter of time before Redmond unleashes a PSP competitor.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this one. As it stands right now, you can't play Blu-Ray high-definition discs on the Xbox 360, as you can on the PS3. However, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently said an external Blu-ray drive for the Xbox 360 is coming. Well, he said it was coming and then said he didn't want to talk about it. So don't expect to see an Xbox 360 Blu-Ray drive anytime soon, but know that Microsoft is thinking about it--maybe.
PlayStation Home vs. Avatars
Launched late last year, PlayStation Home is a Second Life type of virtual environment where your avatar can socialize with other online gamers, view content and play mini-games within PS Home. Xbox 360 doesn't have a similar feature, but you can dress up your Xbox avatars in designer apparel, give them items (called Avatar props) they can take with them wherever they go, and even use your Avatar in some Xbox games.
Tie or Clear Winner?
So that's it. By my count, this is a pretty even contest. The Xbox 360's Blu-Ray shortcomings could be the biggest stumbling block for some, but then again, Blu-Ray does have its doubters with video streaming and direct downloads growing in popularity.
Are you buying a console this year? Which one will you pick, and why?