May 29, 2009, 8:11 AM — Here's another product announcement I just don't get. Hulu has introduced a desktop application to act as a window to its service. They say it improves "lean-back" viewing. Can I get an eye-roll over here?
So what does Hulu Desktop give you that accessing Hulu through a web browser doesn't? The ability to use your computer's remote. Because they think it is somehow easier for me to dig around to find that remote I've never, ever used than it is to reach out and grab my mouse?
I'm one of those people who likes Hulu in theory, but in practice, I spend 10+ hours a day sitting in front of a computer working. When I'm ready to relax and watch a television show, I head for the couch, away from emails and IMs and Tweets. If Hulu gave me a way to easily watch their service from my couch, I'd be thrilled. I understand that some small percentage of the population has a PC connected to their TV, and for them this new desktop app is probably welcome. Ditto dorm-dwelling college students who forgo a TV for their laptop screen and probably do watch it from across the room.
But for most (or at least, more) of us, what would make Hulu really wonderful is an easy way to get the service on our Tivo, Roku, Xbox, PS3, net-enabled Blu-ray player or whatever other device we have in the living room, ready to pipe content to the big-screen TV. Hulu can't, or won't, give that to us, and they block other solutions such as Boxee. This flaw in their strategy has to be holding them back. I find it ironic that I see ads for Hulu on TV, but can't watch Hulu there.
Hulu Desktop is one of several offerings to come out of the new Hulu Labs site that was also just launched. Accompanying Desktop was an interesting Video Panel Designer (to help you create a customized Hulu widget for your website) as well a new Recommendations system, and Time-Based Browsing (allowing you to find content based on original air date).
Here's a video introducing the Hulu Desktop. Put it on my TV, Hulu, and I'll happily use it!