Watch Netflix on a Mac (Thanks, Microsoft!)

Netflix has finally expanded its streaming service to include Macs, and it’s all thanks to… Microsoft? The movie rental company’s “Watch Instantly” service is using the Redmond giant’s Silverlight technology to power its video delivery.

But before you fire up your MacBook to stream all those episodes of CSI: Miami, though, take note: The service is initially open only to a small percentage of new Netflix subscribers, and it will only work on Intel-based Macs.

Why Silverlight? DRM. From the Netflix “Watch Instantly” System Compatibility page:

“Apple does not license their DRM solution to third parties, which has made this more difficult, but we are working with the studios and content owners to gain approval for other solutions. As soon as a studio-approved DRM for the Mac is available to us, whether from Apple or another source, we will move quickly to provide a movie viewer that enables you to watch movies from Netflix instantly on your Mac.”

Both Netflix and Microsoft are aggressively pushing to expand their respective products. Netflix has partnered with Microsoft to deliver streaming movies to the Xbox, and just last week Netflix announced it was streaming movies to Samsung Blu-Ray DVD players.

Both companies have been publicly working on a partnership for awhile. The two showed off a demo of the Netflix/Silverlight combo at the Mix conference in Las Vegas this past summer. While the Netflix/Silverlight connection isn’t as high-profile as Silverlight being used for the recent U.S. Olympics, this is another feather in the cap for Microsoft in its ongoing battle against Adobe’s Flash.