Hulu Launches Desktop App, Forbids Use on Anything Other than PCs

After beating competitors like Joost by choosing to go to the web rather than the desktop, and shutting out third-party apps that enable its videos on desktops or other devices like MyMediaPlayer and Boxee, it does come as a little bit of a surprise that Hulu is launching its own desktop app today.

But at the same time, it’s not a surprise, because specialized desktop apps should ideally make video playback more smooth and reliable than in-browser streaming.

What Hulu’s not doing is enabling video downloads or transfer onto other devices. Hulu Desktop simply presents an alternate UI for the site (now with sound effects!) that’s optimized for remote controls. Not that we usually use remotes on our laptops instead of those other big honking screens…but Hulu explicitly forbids use on other devices in its Desktop terms of use.

You may not download, install or use the Hulu Software on any device other than a Personal Computer including without limitation digital media receiver devices (such as Apple TV), mobile devices (such as a cell phone device, mobile handheld device or a PDA), network devices or CE devices (collectively “Prohibited Devices”).

Hulu also doesn’t promise that all of its content will be available via the desktop app, which is powered by Flash 9 (which doesn’t support P2P, so that answers that question). The software is available for both Mac and PC, and includes a browser plug-in that we haven’t fully explored yet.

Here’s what the app installation, navigation and playback looks like:

huludesktopinstallation

huludesktopnavigation

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The Hulu Desktop debut comes alongside three other trial products, bundled together into the also newly launched Hulu Labs: Hulu Video Panel Designer, Time-Based Browsing and Hulu Recommendations.

Hulu CTO Eric Feng writes of the launch on the company blog,

Hulu Desktop was built by a small group on our engineering team (two devs, one designer, one product manager) who asked themselves one day: how can we make it easier for users to immerse themselves in the great shows and movies Hulu is fortunate to have access to?…And working together with our media partners, we hope Hulu Desktop is another positive step towards building a legal, long-lasting service that earns us the right to continue serving you.

Update: Boxee responds, asking Hulu to reconsider compatibility, and also not to tell its users (as it does via pop-up for those who already have Boxee installed) that running Boxee may cause problems with the Apple Remote.

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