If you’ve ever wondered why there are not all that many television shows in the iTunes Store then pay close attention to what is happening on Hulu. For the most part, television shows from iTunes will cost you money. Hulu has a larger variety of shows and it’s free. Why pay money to Apple when you can get even more shows for free on the web?
Pay vs. Free
There are some distinct differences between television shows from iTunes Store and those on Hulu, a joint venture of NBC, Fox, and a few others who control mainstream television.
iTunes Store television shows cost money but will play on Macs and PCs, and, in many cases on iPods and iPhones.
Hulu is free but is limited to your Mac or PC and sometimes contains advertising. Hulu is also Flash technology.
Assuming your Mac or PC runs Flash, you can simply point your browser of choice to hulu.com and select from a huge variety of popular (and not so popular) television shows.
Hulu also has a desktop application which takes the television shows out of the browser experience and moves them to a slick and glossy application that looks, at first glance, like AppleTV. It’s not.
Generally speaking, the video quality of Hulu shows is quite good, not necessarily HD, but far better than broadcast TV.
What Hulu Desktop does is make your Mac a very expensive and rather small television with nominal, but acceptable sound. You’ll need a fast internet connection, and a recent Intel Mac with at least 2 gigs of RAM.
Hulu the Hog
Hulu is a Mac resource hog, sucking up the CPUs of even a very fast dual core iMac, just like Flash in Safari or Firefox. Is it any wonder that Apple doesn’t want Flash on the iPhone?
This nifty little desktop utility for Mac users is still in beta so I’m inclined to cut it some slack and give it awhile to mature. Some shows I watched early in the day stuttered even on a fast connection. Later in the day things smoothed out.
The experience is not unlike using Hulu in Safari or Firefox but with more controls.
How is Hulu Desktop different from Hulu.com? Hulu Desktop runs directly on your computer and does not require a web browser. It provides an alternate way to browse and view content from the Hulu Library.
These Are Controls?
Did I mention that Hulu Desktop is reminiscent of AppleTV’s onscreen controls? Similar? Reminiscent? Yes. Functional? Not so much.
Apple gets kudos and customers because most Apple products have a very intuitive interface. Not so with Hulu. The Menu icon looks like an afterthought.
The horizontal scanning of television shows in a given category seems simple enough until you realize you’re viewing page 7 of 2,037. It may not be easy to create an interface that slogs viewers through so many shows, but there must be a better way. Apple?
Controls are the weakest point. They’re scattered everywhere on the screen, requiring you to visually hunt for the next thing to click. That said, the Apple Remote seems to work just fine.
Why does Hulu exist?
I’m convinced it’s all about control and money. The networks don’t control Apple, and by selling what is already free to most viewers, there’s also not much money to be made.
Hulu is free so I’m not sure what the economic model is. Advertising? Pay per view? Other negatives exist, too. There’s no easy way to move a Hulu television show to your iPod or iPhone. You can’t save the videos for later playback, either.
People are joiners and you can also join Hulu, which gets customized preferences, closed captions, and playback quality improvements. Hulu hasn’t been around more than a few hours and already there was an update which required that I shut down Hulu Desktop, install the update.
Why do I have to update Hulu Desktop to keep using it? Why can’t I continue to use an older version? Using the latest version of Hulu Desktop will ensure that it will always work. As we make changes over time, older versions of desktop may not be compatible with these versions.
It’s a controlled experience, and other than the use of Flash, which continues to display error pop up messages, Hulu Desktop works well. You can’t complain about the price.