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Tuesday, March 02, 2010, 12:55 pm PT (03:55 pm ET)

Netflix gauges user interest in iPhone movie streaming

Movie rental house Netflix is still testing the waters on potentially streaming movies instantly to the iPhone or iPod touch, according to reports from users.

The information comes from a survey aimed at Netflix users who own an Apple mobile device. According to the survey, the service would be available over Wi-Fi only:

"Whenever you want to instantly watch content on your iPhone, your iPhone must be connected to a Wi-Fi network (such as one you might have at home or at work, or in public places like coffee shops, book stores, hotels, airports, etc.)," the survey reads.

Rumors that Netflix was working on such capability were reported last August, citing "an industry executive familiar with Netflix's plans." The instant streaming app would reportedly require no storage space on the device itself.

This isn't the first time Netflix has asked it's subscribers what they'd be interested in seeing from the service. Surveys were sent out to determine if users wanted streaming via the Sony Playstation 3 a little over 6 months before that service actually came to fruition. If the same timetable pans out for iPhone and iPod touch streaming, the service could be rolled out by the fall.

As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told Reuters last September, "It's something that's likely to come over time. But nothing in the short term. (With) movie watching, we are not focused on mobile yet, but (instead) on the TV, on Blu-ray and on the video game consoles. We will get to mobile eventually, including the iPhone."

Streaming movies over Wi-Fi is beyond Apple's reach at the moment, as iTunes only lets users download entire movies and take up space on their storage devices, be it AppleTV or mobile devices like the iPhone or iPod touch.

Both Netflix and Amazon have encroached on the Apple TV with their set-top box products built by Roku. Netflix Player was introduced in 2008, just a year after Apple TV was officially announced as a shipping product. Netflix Player incorporates a Web browser plug-in with Microsoft's Silverlight technology.