Editors' note, 4:30 p.m. PST: Netflix now claims that it incorrectly acknowledged 1080p streaming in the company's 2010 development road map. A Netflix representative has clarified that the company plans to bring 5.1 surround and closed captioning to its streaming HD videos later this year, though 1080p Watch Instantly is not on the books for this year. The text below is the original story, based on earlier conversations and e-mails with this Netflix representative.
Netflix subscribers with HDTVs and streaming boxes have something big to look forward to in the coming months. CNET has learned that the company plans to roll out 1080p streaming with 5.1 surround sound later this year.
No details are known on the timing of release, how much content will be available in 1080p, or how much--if any--extra bandwidth will be required.
Netflix's current (though unofficial) requirements for streaming 720p HD content on an HD-compatible box such as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Roku box are 5Mbps or higher. Presumably 1080p, which is a little over twice the resolution of 720p, will require more speed.
Netflix uses Microsoft's Silverlight technology for its video-streaming service. Microsoft rolled out 1080p smooth streaming support to Silverlight in March of last year. One of its first, big commercial uses was in Microsoft's own Zune Marketplace video store on the Xbox 360. It's also being utilized extensively later this week to stream the 2010 Winter Olympics on NBC's Web site.
Correction, Monday at 3:10 p.m. PST: This article incorrectly listed the Internet connection speed required to stream 720p HD content. According to Netflix, that number is "typically" 5 megabits per second.