Netflix explains absence of streaming app for Android

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Over the past few months there've been a number of rumors about Netflix heading to Android devices. Most of these have been based on ads for Android programming talent at Netflix and/or wishful thinking on the part of Android device owners.

Friday evening, Netflix broke their silence on the topic. In a blog post, Netflix's Greg Peters (who is from the product development team) talked about the challenges of getting the service onto Android given its diversity. The problem is that Android, unlike iOS or Windows Phone 7 (both of which already have Netflix support) doesn't have a uniform way of supporting DRM. Or in Peters' words:

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The hurdle has been the lack of a generic and complete platform security and content protection mechanism available for Android. The same security issues that have led to piracy concerns on the Android platform have made it difficult for us to secure a common Digital Rights Management (DRM) system on these devices.

Netflix has to keep the various content producing studios happy and that means having content protection and DRM.

So instead of creating Netflix for Android, Peters' team has to create Netflix for {insert specific device here}. That means that early next year Netflix will become available on some Android devices but not others, at least in the short term. He finishes the post with the hope that things will eventually change:

We will also continue to work with the Android community, handset manufacturers, carriers, and other service providers to develop a standard, platform-wide solution that allows content providers to deliver their services to all Android-based devices.

The blog post has a good selection of comments, some from people cheering Netflix on, others who're sure this is a conspiracy based on payouts from parties who want to keep Netflix off Android. Several commenters suggest Windows Phone 7 is less secure than Android, and so on.

Assuming Netflix's concerns are on the up-and-up this lack of a content protection mechanism would seem to preclude Hulu Plus or Amazon VOD from hitting Android as well. While I've seen carrier specific streaming content (like the NFL app on Verizon Android phones) I'm trying to think of an app that streams DRMed content on all Android devices and so far I'm drawing a blank. Can any of you readers think of one? If there aren't any, it does lend credibility to Netflix's claim.

If this is a legitimate problem it'd be nice to see Google stepping in and addressing this missing feature of the Android OS. I know I'd love to have Netflix on my Droid, and Netflix on Android tablets seems almost like a must-have.

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