29 Comments

Summary:

When it comes to streaming video on connected devices, Netflix may be king, as it is now available on more than 200 different consumer electronics devices. But the one hurdle it still can’t overcome is finding a way to deliver its subscription video service on Android.

netflix-on-iphone

When it comes to streaming video on connected devices, Netflix may be king, as it is now available on more than 200 different consumer electronics devices. But the one hurdle it still hasn’t been able to overcome is finding a way to deliver its subscription video service to mobile phones running Google’s Android operating system.

Netflix has spent the last several years rapidly expanding the number of consumer electronics devices that have embedded its Watch Instantly streaming service, which is now available on TVs, Blu-ray players, game consoles, TiVo DVRs and broadband set-top boxes like the Roku player and (soon) D-Link’s Boxee Box. In the mobile space, Netflix has created mobile applications for Apple’s iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, and the service was one of the first applications to launch on Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 mobile OS.

But the one nut it hasn’t been able to crack is Android, which Netflix says suffers from device fragmentation and lack of a common digital rights management (DRM) solution. Unlike the iOS ecosystem, which is tightly controlled by Apple, or even Windows Phone 7, which has stringent requirements for device manufacturers to follow, many Android devices run different versions of the mobile OS. While this is slowly improving, with more than 75 percent of all Android devices now on Android 2.1 or 2.2, manufacturers and carriers frequently make changes and add “features” to Android that make development difficult for companies like Netflix.

In a blog post late yesterday, Greg Peters from Netflix product development gave an update on Netflix’s plans — and struggles — to port its streaming video service to Android mobile devices. Saying that the company regards Android as an “exciting technology that drives a range of great devices,” Peters lamented the fact that Netflix hasn’t been able to build a single application that can reach all of those different devices. From the blog post:

“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. Setting aside the debate around the value of content protection and DRM, they are requirements we must fulfill in order to obtain content from major studios for our subscribers to enjoy. Although we don’t have a common platform security mechanism and DRM, we are able to work with individual handset manufacturers to add content protection to their devices.

As a result, Netflix will soon ship on some select Android phones, but it won’t be able to reach all Android users. Peters wrote that the fragmentation will also lead to slower rollout across the devices than Netflix would have liked:

“Unfortunately, this is a much slower approach and leads to a fragmented experience on Android, in which some handsets will have access to Netflix and others won’t. This clearly is not the preferred solution, and we regret the confusion it might create for consumers. However, we believe that providing the service for some Android device owners is better than denying it to everyone.”

Related content on GigaOM Pro: (subscription required)

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. Actually Greg Peters of Netflix said absolutely nothing about “device fragmentation” or the “many different versions of Android Operating” system being impediments to their being able to make Netflix streaming available across the Android platform.

    He said the opposite. He said Netflix will be a fragmented experience on Android.

    I consider it a triumph that Android has managed to become biggest selling mobile operating system in the US and the world without a monolithic MPAA-approved DRM and “content management” system.

    If individual device vendors want to add Netflix’ DRM to their devices that’s fine. That’s their option.

    I applaud Google in keeping MPAA out of their mobile OS.

    1. Then frankly, you’re applauding Google for keeping quality video services from being able to reach all Android handsets.

      1. Here’s the reply to your bogus argument. Hit the link if you haven’t read it already.

        http://gigaom.com/video/even-netflix-cant-avoid-android-fragmentation/#comment-511123

      2. Get your stuff together you apple tard. Yes he said nothing about fragmentation. You are applauding Apple for keeping facetime, or background processes or, game center for 3G iphone users. You’re a fool. Theres no difference.. yes some users of newer handsets will be given features older handsets can not. Now stop printing this garbage

  2. Your headline and story lead are completely misleading and need to be retracted. Relwal is right, Greg said absolutely *nothing* about Android platform fragmentation. Not a single word. What you misunderstood is that he’s saying taht *Netflix* will be fragmented because they will only allow it to run on devices that have some extra DRM api’s on top of the stock Android build that they have negotiated with device manufacturers.

    If this site wants to be taken seriously you need to completely retract this story.

    1. Could you imagine if a company writing software for Microsoft Windows had to create a different application every time Dell, Acer & HP decided to release a new laptop? The point is, if that’s what developers have to do for Android, the platform is completely wanting as a development framework.

      1. May be not. Giving control to anyone and everyone and letting them try things out will in the end do the best for everyone around. It’s like a giant experiment and the best experiments will spread while others get flushed out.

        Nokia’s symbian has had various versions and apps needed to be built differently. But, it still was a success! Android’s beauty is in it’s openness and Google has done the right thing!

        And why are you comparing Microsoft’s product with Google’s. They belong to different eras and different platforms!

  3. The fragmentation issue is completely bogus. If Tweetdeck can write for the 200 plus Android devices with just two guys, Netflix has no excuse. If TWiT.tv can write a video/audio streaming app with only one guy really working on the app, then Netflix with it’s vast wealth & resources has no excuse. Nobody talks about iOS fragmentation and the various experiences & differences impacts the way iOS apps are done. This is just a media “red herring” done to generate articles or as an excuse for lazy developers who either don’t want to commit the necessary resources or got caught with their pants down at the rise of Android.

    The Android development tools has all of the tools necessary for developers to target different versions of Android. With most phones at 2.1, you can create an app that targets the largest audience. Forget the 1.5 & 1.6 versions for now. Focus on 2.1/2.2 versions and you’ve got 3/4th’s of almost every Android device.

    The big issue here is piracy. If Netflix doesn’t hit the vast majority of Android devices, the pirates certainly will. The last thing the MPAA really wants is to add Android to the list of platforms that they have to play pirate whack-a-mole. What Netflix needs to do is see the different versions as a programming challenge & rise to the occasion. The world has spoken. Loudly and proudly that Android is the platform. iOS is not. Just like with iOS, nobody complains about Windows fragmentation. They just figure it out.

    In the words of Leo Laporte, someone needs to tell Netflix “time to get back to work. Break-time is over.”

    1. I disagree. First of all, Tweetdeck isn’t seeking to deliver rich media to a significant number of different devices, each of which has different form factors and capabilities. Scaling twitter text and columns is a lot simpler than making sure video can be delivered across devices.

      Secondly, fragmentation is an issue. If Netflix has to go from device maker to device maker to enable features and create separate apps to support those Android devices, that’s the very definition of fragmentation.

  4. gatta agree, Netflix didnt mention Android fragmentation, only that they themselves will be doing the fragmenting. clearly Netflix problem is that Android doesnt have the necessary DRM protection schemes embedded.

    these kinds of misleading stories bloggers use to jump on current trends or “talking points” may get lots of hits in the short term but ultimately hurt credibility.

    if it was just a mistake i would simply update the article & apologize that you misunderstood what was being said, but that the DRM point is valid.

  5. The reaction to Netflix’s troubles porting to Android has been high comedy. Netflix has been the most aggressive company in the video on-demand industry on getting their software on as many devices as humanly possible. I think my next toaster will have Netflix on it. Somehow Netflix’s inability to work on Android is Netflix’s fault. It isn’t. Android needs to get its act together or it will continue to miss out on the video on demand and video gaming markets.

    1. it is the other way round, customers will skip netflix if netflix is not there on android, they will not stop buying android or return the android phones that they have. There are plenty of alternatives on android for streaming.

  6. Paul Schneider Sunday, November 14, 2010

    At NewTeeVee Live, Jeff Miller of ActiveVideo Networks talked about a unified effort to stream content from the cloud would enable the industry to overcome device fragmentation and “Platform Chaos.” Presentation at http://www.livestream.com/gigaomtv/video?clipId=pla_63fea491-5f93-428b-bdb7-d8780dd4c5a3

  7. What are you talking about? “Android’s fragmentation” is NOT the problem here and he doesn’t say anything about that. It’s their choice to offer a fragmented experience of Netflix on Android because they only want a Netflix app that can be DRM’ed.

    And that wouldn’t even be a problem because they have alternatives to offer it DRM’ed through 3rd party DRM services, but the problem is they want the DRM at the OS or hardware level. And why would Google offer them DRM at the OS level? Personally, I wouldn’t want that to happen. I’d rather see Android become so popular that labels will have no choice but to allow non-DRM’ed content on Android, than labels to force Google to DRM content in Android.

    Anyway, your title and article suggest that Netflix didn’t come to Android because of the different versions of Android out there, when in fact it’s completely false. They didn’t bring it because there isn’t DRM at the OS level in Android, and THIS is why they will only bring it to devices where manufacturers modify the Android OS to contain DRM or put the DRM at the hardware level.

  8. if netflix does not give a good app for android, android will not lose, it will be netflix which will lose as customers will use some other service for streaming videos. The onus is on netflix to deliver, not on android to solve its fragmentation issues. Customers will not stop buying android just because netflix app is not there.

  9. Digital Assassin Sunday, November 14, 2010

    It’s amazing to see how many of the comments are actually blaming Netflix. I cannot imagine that they would not want their app on Android.

    People are not going to suddenly ditch Netflix because it’s not on Android where it’s easily available everywhere else. Any potential alternative service will suffer the same issues. The main advantages between different OS’s is the apps that are available for it.

    Like it or not Android does have real issues with fragmentation. Some others have made the argument that most Android devices are at 2.1 so fragmentation isn’t an issue. While that is true, most of the rapid growth of Android has been post-2.0 so know one really knows how long these phones will be supported for new updates.

    1. You’re not getting this are you? It has nothing to do with the fact that there is an Android 2.1 and an Android 2.2 version. It has everything to do with the fact that Android doesn’t offer DRM protection at the OS level in ANY version.

      They call it fragmentation because they themselves will only offer it on “certain devices”, NOT “certain Android versions”. For example, they could offer it on the upcoming Droid T2 because Motorola would modify Android or the phone itself to allow DRM protection at a deep level. So Netflix won’t work on other devices not because it would only work on Android 2.3 and not previous versions, but because Netflix will have a specific partnership with Motorola to protect Netflix content in the only way they want it to be protected, regardless of the OS version. They could even make Netflix work on Android 1.6 if they made a deal with a certain company to provide a phone with Android 1.6 and Netflix.

      Once again, it has NOTHING to do with the Android OS version. Netflix will only come to specific phones that support the DRM they want, regardless of the OS version.

      Can you understand the difference now?

  10. I program for Android. There is an alternative call webview or such that runs everything on the web instead of in “an APP”. I would think that would be “close enough” to appease “the content Gods”.

  11. Netflix, Apple and other DRM pimps wither away

  12. i LOVE netflix, but come on…

    Android is rising at a pace that it will quickly become the defacto mobile OS

    Netflix needs Android far more than Android needs Netflix

  13. WebOS: only mobile OS without Netflix & Kindle Support – Page 2 – TreoCentral.com Sunday, November 14, 2010

    [...] [...]

  14. Great comments to this bogus article.

    You commenters are right: It’s a DRM issue that has nothing at all to do with fragmentation.

    I also applaud Google for not baking in DRM into Android. I take an open OS without Netflix over a closed OS with Netflix any day.

    And it’s true, as Android will soon dominate the smartphone market almost like Windows dominates the PC market, Netflix needs Android more than Android needs Netflix.

    The great thing is, unlike the Windows monopoly on the PC market, the Android monopoly ob the smartphone market will NOT stifle innovation.

    I am glad that this time around it’s an open OS that wins. Because of Android’s open nature, everyone can take it and innovate on top of it.

    Fragmentation is an important part of the plan! It’s our (i.e. the consumers’) insurance that innovation will never end in the smartphone market.

  15. LOL.

    And then they turn around and call people that use an iPhone: fanboy fanatics.

    :rollseyes:

  16. I guess we don’t have a lot of content folks reading this. The problem is not Netflix, nor is it Android. It is the content providers that do not want to risk their content. Could Netflix do it technically? Absolutely. Why do they require the strong DRM? That is the requirement (and likely legal arrangement) placed on them by the content providers to enable such broad access to content. If they neglect this, they lose their content and their customer base.

  17. Dear Netflix, please make an android app, so that the hackers can hack it to work on all android systems. Thank you.

  18. All you Android fanboys are raving that this is not about fragmentation, but about Android not offering a secure DRM solution as part of their platform (as if that’s a good thing). You may all want to live in a universe where premium content is available for free, but that’s not realistic. So in the real world, Android is a fragmented platform for premium content providers, since it’s up to each device manufacturer to implement their own flavor of DRM.

  19. My Slingbox software streams just fine to Android 2.2.

  20. VLC for Android Coming Soon : Video « Thursday, December 23, 2010

    [...] Most VLC libraries have already been ported to Android. Still, Kempf cautioned that issues with specific devices could delay the release. Android’s device fragmentation has been a long-running issue for developers especially in the multimedia space, and it’s one of the reasons that there still isn’t a Netflix app available for Android devices. [...]

  21. VLC pronto llegará para Android « Blog DDS.media Monday, December 27, 2010

    [...] en el apartado multimedia, y es una de las razones por las que todavía no se puede contar con una aplicación de Netflix para los dispositivos [...]

Comments have been disabled for this post