[This article was featured at a new website for tech tips called Lifehacks. -Shabbir]
Netflix has implemented a new feature called "Queues". It lets you take your existing Netflix account and divide it up into sub-accounts for different family members. I believe this feature falls into what Clayton Christensen, guru of all things related to product innovation, would call a feature that overserves the market. In other words, a feature that customers don't need, and won't make a product decision on.
However that doesn't mean it's not a great feature. Nor does it mean that you, as a wise and technology-savvy consumer ahead of the pack, won't find it amazingly cool.
Presumably the purpose of Netflix queues is to allow one family to share a Netflix account, and not have arguments over who gets to pick which movies come next. This is a familiar problem in any household that has a Netflix account and more than one family member that adds things to the queue. You basically have arguments over how to order movies in the queue, and if you have really divergent tastes (apocalypse and zombie horror vs. foreign and documentary drama), you end up carefully interspersing the queue with alternating movies.
This is a huge pain in the ass to do. And since the movies come three at a time with whichever one is next available, your carefully negotiated queue can be thrown out of whack if even one or two movies is not available at order time. Suddenly you find yourself with three movies you don't want to see at home, and if your partner doesn't get around to watching them any time soon, you don't get any more.
However Netflix queues lets you take your "three DVD allocation" and divide it up among multiple queues.
So now I can have a queue and Sarah can have a queue, each with our favorite movies. When my movie is returned, the next one in my list arrives, meaning that there's always a movie that you picked at home.
Sarah and I took this one step farther of course, and setup a third queue for movies we both said we wanted to see, and allocated our three DVD allocation evenly amongst all three queues, one DVD each.
Netflix has also added features that let you restrict what kinds of movies each queue can see (presumably for kids) but in our household that's not necessary for another few years.
Netflix queues will never make the difference in an ordinary customer's decision to subscribe to Netflix, or to subscribe to Netflix vs. Blockbuster vs. Wal-mart. It is a feature that can also be easily added by the other providers.
In the long run it only has the ability to make a difference in the competitive marketplace should the other providers decide not to bother to implement it, or implement it poorly. In the short term, it will be yet another feature that makes Netflix cooler, if only for a short time.