When Hulu launched its services, I was an instant fan. Finally, I thought, a way to watch some of the shows that I’ve missed on TV or just other shows I might not normally watch and I can do it on my computer! Of course, for me, this all played into a greater scheme of mine, to be able to watch as much TV on my computer by connecting it to my TV using HDMI.
At the time, this plan went down the tube due to overly restrictive bandwidth policies by my ISP so I had to abandon my plan at the time and just fork out the money for DirecTV. In hindsight, I don’t regret it because there’s plenty of content still you can find online.
The last year or so I’ve played around with the Boxee software and I’ve tinkered with the idea of getting a good computer set up to use as a content player for my TV. Boxee seemed like the perfect candidate, until Hulu pulled their support. At that point I could see my dreams go down the toilet.
In the last few days or so, it become apparent why Hulu pulled their support. They wanted to do their own Boxee thing. They released the Hulu Desktop through their brand new Hulu Labs. Talk about coincidence. One good idea leads someone else to copy it? I can’t say but I figured I should at least check it out.
The Hulu Desktop software is less than 1MB in size and uses Flash. It actually reminds quite a bit of Boxee, which is so ironic. The question of course is if it does the same thing any better.
Hulu Desktop (HD), like I said, has pretty much the same interface as Boxee. You can easily use a remote or just they keyboard to navigate around between the different categories. You can easily find the shows you’re looking for, based on categories, channels and so on. The picture quality is the same as Hulu itself and it looks like the content is too (although I think the HD content is missing).
The player is not that different from the browser version but it does have a cool preview pane that you can use to find a specific scene in a show that you’d like to skip to. So, let’s say for example that you’re looking for a super funny scene in a movie, you point your mouse pointer at the place where you think it might be and you’ll see a small preview window pop up and play that section of the show in the window. If it’s the right one, you click on it and you’re taken there. Of course, you’ll have to watch the ads if they come in the way. However, this is definitely a cool feature that I wish all online streaming video sites would implement.
The navigation takes a bit getting used to. It’s not as intuitive as Boxee is, for example. I’m still not quite happy with it but I guess over time you’ll get used to it.
Overall, I think it’s a very capable player that will be a perfect fit if you’re watching Hulu on a TV or just want quicker access to the content since the content browser is pretty efficient.
If you’re a Linux user, at this point you’ll have to wait. There is no Linux version. I tried to install Hulu Desktop using Wine on Ubuntu 9.04 and had some success. In fact, it installed fine and it starts fine, it just doesn’t play any video. For some reason, it appears it can’t find the Internet connection. Of course, I’m sure some smart guy will figure that one out before long too. Until then, VirtualBox and Windows works although playback isn’t as smooth. So, those of us with Linux, for now I think we’re stuck with the browser version.