A Programmer's Dream

Hulu on the TouchPad

Posted by Stephen Wrighton on 26 Aug 2011

The tablet PC that
Hulu doesn't like
I purchased the TouchPad in its recent fire-sale, and overall, I'm quite happy with the device. I'm still considering placing Android on it once the various hackers out there get the process down to a science, but that's neither here nor there.

My issue that I'm a tad annoyed with is the fact that Hulu refuses to run on this machine.

So, of course, I immediately asked Hulu support why this was, and Hulu's response was:
Thanks for writing in about Hulu on the HP TouchPad. Unfortunately, due to the contractual agreements with our content providers, we have to have a certain set of agreements set up with a device manufacturer before we can provide support for that device. We have no partnership with HP at this time, so we can't currently stream through their device.
We get a lot of requests for webOS support, so it's definitely something that's on our radar. Though we can't support it right now, we are continually evaluating new technologies, and will be adding more devices based on user demand. Stay tuned!

We have plans to bring Hulu Plus to as many devices as possible. For up to date info on which devices are currently supported or have been announced, you can go to ( www.hulu.com/plus/devices ). On this page, you can even sign up to be notified of availability on upcoming devices.
Which confused me a bit more. After all, a tablet is nothing more but a small-form factor PC. Why does the manufacturer of my PC matter when I try to access a website? It's not like the fact that I'm running a DELL matters when I access Hulu. I mean, does Hulu not work when people build their own gaming rigs?

So, I of course, pointed this logical fallacy out.

And got this... slightly condescending reply:
Thanks for getting back to us. The TouchPad is considered a device and as such to play our content on it requires certain licenses and approval of the owners of the content on our site. I know it's frustrating to have to pay for services you believe should be free. I'd love to speak to the issue.

When we launched the free Hulu.com service, our rights were limited to streaming on the PC. Unfortunately, mobile and TV devices were not included in these contracts, and in order to add them, we've had to do so under a paid service, Hulu Plus. This is for many reasons, including the high price of these types of streaming rights and because many shows required they be part of a paid service to be on these types of devices.

Once again, I'm sorry for the inconvenience. Please let me know if you have any further questions. Happy viewing!

There's two things that really got my goat here.

The first, the implication that a PC is not a PC. I'm a big fan of clarity of thought and word. I know the definition of a PC--it's a rather large part of my job after all.  For those of you who are wondering, a PC is a computer designed for use by a single person. I wouldn't expect to be able to stream Hulu to a SERVER since it's designed for use by multiple people, but tablets are designed for use by one person.

My OTHER Tablet that Hulu likes
Additionally, I KNOW that tablet devices can have Hulu streamed to it. I know this, because I also own a Viliv S5 tablet. And the Viliv device is a smaller form factor (though a thicker, and heavier machine) than the TouchPad. So it's not the size of the device--it's not the fact that it's a tablet that makes a difference to Hulu.

No, it's the operating system. It's the fact that the browser (which runs Flash) on the TouchPad tells Hulu that it's not a Windows device. In fact, I can prove this by using Fiddler to strip out my user-agent string from my HTTP Headers--let's just say that doing so, makes Hulu not play nice with Windows.

The second is that line about "have to pay for services you believe should be free." That makes a rather large assumption that I'm complaining about the cost of Hulu's services--which is not the case. Additionally, even Hulu's "free" service isn't free. There's commercials attached to the video--which is the traditional way that video services have always been paid for (just sit down in front of your television for proof of this).

And even more important in this regard, is the fact that if I was merely after free content, that can be had. It's easy to torrent a TV show--and a torrented TV show does not have commercials, and are typically of better quality than the flash-based video which Hulu streams out.

Regardless, this definitely leaves me in a mood to NEVER buy the Hulu service. After all, if they can't stream the standard service to my small form-factor PC which runs a linux-based OS and Flash, then why on earth would I assume that they could stream the HuluPlus version to my small form-factor PC which runs a linux-based OS and Flash?

And of course I asked them... which leaves me wondering if I'll get an answer...

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