Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Other Streaming Video Content on the TouchPad

Disclaimer: This post isn't an outline of a clever hack to get Hulu Plus and Netflix working on the TouchPad. It discusses using the TouchPad in conjunction with an application called PlayOn that runs on Windows. Just wanted to let you know what you'd be reading about so you could bail now if you're not interested in this solution, but if you're not familiar with PlayOn I encourage you to keep reading--it's pretty slick!
One of the major holes in webOS and the HP TouchPad is the lack of video streaming apps such as Hulu Plus and Netflix. Not a problem since you can just go to Hulu and Netflix in your browser, right?
Wrong. Netflix uses Microsoft Silverlight (hopefully not for long) and therefore won't work on the TouchPad, and Hulu for some inexplicable reason actually blocks video from playing in the TouchPad's browser, even though unless I'm missing something it would be perfectly capable of doing so.
So what's a TouchPad-using streaming video junkie to do? I'll cover some native applications like Video Flood HD and BHomePro that handle different types of streaming in a future post, but until someone writes a native Hulu Plus or Netflix app (not sure if Hulu or Netflix would even allow a third-party app to be written), your'e kind of out of luck. For TV content sure, you can try going to the individual network web sites but that's a hassle and is a bit hit or miss, just as it is on a computer.
One of the rules of computing is that all problems can be solved by another level of indirection, so that's what we'll be applying here. The TouchPad can't play Hulu Plus and Netflix content directly, so what we need is something that can play Hulu Plus and Netflix content that the TouchPad can leverage.
Thankfully that something exists, and it's a little Windows application called PlayOn. The long and short of PlayOn is that it's an application that runs on a Windows box that exposes all sorts of online video content--including Hulu Plus and Netflix--both as DLNA and, if you enable the mobile option in PlayOn's settings, via a web browser on any device. (As an aside, being able to run PlayOn with my Moxi is the sole reason I have a Windows box sitting in my basement, but it's proven itself a nice little app to have for many other reasons.)
Now there are indeed native DLNA apps for the TouchPad and they work quite well, but the nature of DLNA in combination with the video formats supported on the TouchPad unfortunately mean that PlayOn can't stream video to the TouchPad via DLNA. (You can read a bit about the issue on the PlayOn forums.)
All this is a rather big lead-up to a pretty simple final solution, but it's a nice one nonetheless. With PlayOn running and with the mobile streaming option enabled you can browse to http://m.playon.tv from either inside or outside your network (or there are also native Android and iOS applications) and access all of what you have in PlayOn, which includes Hulu Plus and Netflix. (This is probably obvious but just in case it's not, you do have to have Hulu Plus and Netflix accounts in order to use these services with PlayOn.)
PlayOn also supports Amazon Video On Demand. I didn't mention Amazon previously because you can watch Amazon VOD in the TouchPad browser, even in full screen, so strictly speaking you don't have to use PlayOn to watch Amazon content on the TouchPad. The organization and navigation of the Amazon content is better on PlayOn than in the browser, so you have the option of going either way here.
In addition to Hulu Plus and Netflix (and Amazon), PlayOn has numerous other channels such as CBS (and much of their content isn't on Hulu Plus--think Big Bang Theory), numerous sports networks (NFL, MLB, NHL), SyFy, Comedy Central, Crackle (check the PlayOn site for the whole list), and all this content can be accessed on the TouchPad.
The other cool thing about PlayOn is that it's scriptable so there are numerous community scripts available as well. This is where the indirection really pays off because if it works on PlayOn, it'll work via the mobile site for PlayOn in the TouchPad browser.
So there you have it--call it a crutch or a cheat if you want, but via an inexpensive Windows application you'll have access to Hulu Plus, Netflix, and a ton of other content on your TouchPad.

1 comment:

James said...

This is all well and good if you're still interested in using Netflix. Nothing against Hulu etc., but Netflix is a sinking ship. I jumped ship over to DISH last year, and with the free DISH Remote Access app I have NO problem streaming all of my live TV, DVR and features like the Blockbuster @ Home movie pack to my iPad. At Dishonline.com I can also stream thousands of movies, TV shows, and clips to my laptop or PC! I work at one of the DISH call centers, and while I understand people want different apps and players for different devices, with DISH I only need my Sling Adapter and the ONE app to have complete control of my home TV wherever I go!