Four hardware companies to participate in Netflix set-top box system

After a false start almost two years ago, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is talking more about a set-top box in the company’s future. In addition to dropping the bomb that prices will go up for Blu-ray discs on the popular movie rental-by-mail site, Hastings gave us a few more details about a hardware deal in the works with LG Electronics that he first mentioned this past January.

The most intriguing part of the CEO’s comments to the press in a Webcast yesterday was the mention of “three additional partners actively working on integrating our technology into their products,” and a fourth smaller company joining in the fun, too. Let’s hope Microsoft with its Xbox Live and Sony are among that mysterious group.

It’s yet another effort to bring online connectivity into the living room, and we’re thinking this must involve HD downloads, or else it would have happened by now. We’re already impressed with the 900-title Netflix Watch Instantly, a standard-def streaming video feature included free with most of its memberships. If this upcoming box does turn out to handle HD, we’re hoping Netflix will offer enough titles and dedicate enough bandwidth to an HD streaming service to rival those more-expensive Blu-ray rentals.

Hacking Netflix, via Zatz Not Funny