Hulu’s Plans for the iPad, the Mobile Internet

From the moment Apple announced its new iPad mobile device, people have been wondering when (and if) Hulu was going to make a specialized application for it. But Hulu has so far tended towards public generalities and general inaction when it comes to developing for anything but the PC.

Earlier this week, and a day ahead of the iPad launch, I interviewed Hulu CEO Jason Kilar at the DLD Conference in Munich, spending a big portion of our conversation on the mobile web. Of course, Kilar, who graduated from the Jeff Bezos School of Management, and like his former boss plays his cards close to the vest, didn’t reveal anything specific.

However, his comments indicated that Hulu is very seriously thinking about the mobile web, including creating specialist applications for different platforms. More importantly, his brief comments indicate that the second-most popular online video service in the U.S. — YouTube being the first — is not ignoring the big shift to the mobile Internet. “The computer in your pocket is very important,” he said. “Mobile is a monster – we are very bullish. We will embrace any device.”

Of course, Kilar made similar statements way back in 2008, and there have been unsubstantiated rumors of an iPhone app since, but now, in light of the iPad, the rise of Android and the blowout success of the iTunes app store, the timing has never been better for Hulu to launch something for the mobile web.

When I asked Kilar if he was going to make a special version of a Hulu app for the iPad, Kilar said: “We are very big believers in mobile and we don’t think about (just) one device only.” My translation: Expect Hulu to be on multiple platforms such as the iPhone and Android. I would expect the Android version to show up first because it supports Flash, while Apple’s iPhone OS platform doesn’t. If Hulu has to support iPhone OS, it would need to re-encode its videos in order to make them work.

What’s more interesting is that he (and his cohorts at Hulu) think that the two mobile- and PC-centric versions of Hulu can not only coexist but thrive. He went on to add that while mobile is going to be a large component of its business, the company would still get a lot of its revenues and usage from the traditional web browser. “Mobile will always be like a snack channel but never will become the major (revenue) share of our business,” Kilar said.

While that might be true when it comes to the iPhone, the new iPad is a whole new ball of wax — one that Kilar can’t ignore for long. As I said earlier, the iPad is all about media consumption, including videos on Hulu.

Photo by Rodrigo Sepulveda courtesy of DLD Conference via Flickr

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