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Netflix Goes Native, Gets Dolby 5.1 and Search On PS3

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Netflix (s NFLX) subscribers that access its streaming video application on Sony’s (s SNE) PlayStation 3 are due to get a slew of new features, including Dolby 5.1 audio, 1080p HD video on some titles and a new user interface that will enable them to browse and search for the movies or TV shows they want to view. But the biggest upgrade will come from Netflix finally becoming a native app on the gaming console.

After being available for nearly a year through a special disc on the PS3, Netflix users will soon be able to access the video streaming application directly from the PS3’s XrossMediaBar (XMB). On October 18, PS3 owners will get an update that adds the Netflix app, making the service available even to those who haven’t ordered a disc. Not just that, but adding Netflix as a native app could prompt PS3 users who aren’t already Netflix subscribers to sign up for the service. It should also provide some performance enhancements — like faster playback — that will improve the user experience.

While becoming a native app will be a big deal, the new PS3 implementation also has new features — like Dolby audio and an improved UI — that will make it even more appealing to users. The PS3 becomes the first consumer electronics device to enable Netflix streaming in Dobly Digital Plus 5.1-channel surround sound, and it will also enable viewers to watch some titles in 1080p HD video resolution. All of that will provide a near TV-like experience for those streaming videos from the PS3.

The Sony game console also gets an updated UI with new search functionality, which makes it easier for users to find what they’re looking for, and brings the PS3 up to date with UI improvements rolled out on the Microsoft (s MSFT) Xbox 360, Roku player and other updated implementations on CE devices. (For a comparison of the Netflix UI on the Google TV, (S GOOG) Apple TV (s AAPL) and the Roku player, see the video below.)

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