One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Hulu Shuns PlayBook, Verizon Next?

They say progress is about making two steps forward and one step back, so maybe we should consider this a double turn for RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) and its new tablet, the PlayBook, which has been blocked by Hulu and still doesn’t have a distribution deal with one of RIM’s key resellers, Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ). The two news shots come as analysts estimate that there were some 45,000 PlayBooks sold on the opening day, roughly one-sixth of the number of iPad 2s sold in the same timeframe.

One of the positive features reviewers found about the PlayBook was that it was the first media tablet to come out with excellent support for Flash.

That may still be the case, but one of the most popular media streaming sites that uses Flash still won’t be viewable on the device: Hulu has blocked the PlayBook from its network.

As BlackBerry Review points out, this is not a PlayBook-specific move — web streaming from other mobile devices is also not allowed — but it is particularly disappointing in this case given the close, native integration with Flash that RIM has so carefully implemented on the device.

It also seems like a big missed opportunity: RIM may be touting the enterprise-ready features of this device, particularly on the security front, but it has undoubtedly also been promoting it as a consumer product; and a distribution deal with a key player like Hulu could have been a great, and unique, leg up in that strategy.

Meanwhile, it looks like the PlayBook might be facing distribution headaches of its own. Verizon Wireless, according to Reuters, is still “evaluating” whether or not it will sell the tablet. This is a bit of a blow, considering that Verizon has historically been one of RIM’s biggest sellers for its smartphones.

That position has declined in recent quarters, with the rise and rise of Android devices and now the iPhone getting stocked and sold by Verizon. It may also be that, given the operator’s focus on launching and selling another tablet, the Motorola (NYSE: MMI) Xoom, it may be less interested in diluting that message for now — especially since the PlayBook currently does not have a built-in cellular connection and needs tethering to a BlackBerry device to get a 3G connection. (WiFi is built in.)

Sprint (NYSE: S) has bagged the deal to be the PlayBook’s first operator partner for the 4G version of the tablet, although RIM had said it expected that Verizon will also be a distributor.

According to RBC Capital Markets, there were some 45,000 PlayBooks sold on its opening day on the market yesterday, with some 25,000 of those on pre-order.