Why there’s still no Netflix app for Android – Fragmentation

Sun, Nov 14, 2010


Netflix redefined the way we watch movies and it was only a matter of time before the service started showing up on devices like the Xbox and Apple TV in addition to infiltrating devices in the mobile space. A Netflix app for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad has been available since August, and like you’d expect, it lets users stream TV and movie content via 3G or Wi-Fi. Most recently, Netflix released an app for Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 platform. But one platform where you still can’t find any Netflix support is Android, a fact which is particularly unusual given how popular the platform is and how quickly the Android user base continues to grow.

So what gives? How is it that Windows Phone 7, which has barely been out for a week and has a pretty sparse selection of apps, has a Netflix app while a relatively mature platform like Android still lacks one?

Well as it turns out, Netflix has been working on an Android app but has run into a few technical hurdles on account of the Android software. In a recent blogpost explaining the conspicuous absence of a Netflix app for Android, Netflix product developer Greg Peters explains that Android lacks a universal DRM solution which means that the company has to work with different handset manufacturers spearately in order to ensure that the installed DRM protocol meets the requirements laid out by the movie studios. “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,” Peters explains. That said, the process of dealing with each Android handset on a case by case basis is a lot more arduous and time consuming than developing the app for platforms like iOS and Windows Phone 7.

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. 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.

Peters goes on to say that the DRM situation surrounding Android is frustrating and that while it would be ideal to provide Netflix functionality to every Android user, “providing the service for some Android device owners is better than denying it to everyone.”

Note that the DRM issues surrounding Android isn’t entirely new, and explains why BlockBuster’s streaming video app was initially only available on the Motorola Droid.

So when can Android users expect to see a Netflix app in the Android Marketplace? Peters writes that that the company will release an app for select Android devices in early 2011. There’s still no word, however, as to which Android handsets will get the Netflix treatment and which ones will be left out in the cold.

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19 Comments For This Post

  1. HEYO! Says:

    Man, if only there was some way that this wouldn’t be necessary.

    Oh, wait.

  2. Kawika Says:

    I wonder if Google saw the fragmentation problem ahead of time…

  3. dequeued Says:

    I don’t understand why this is such a big deal for them.
    The content is ALREADY AVAILABLE on the internet for FREE.
    Find one element of content that I can’t get on thepiratebay!!
    You can’t.
    They’re trying to compete with FREE and DRM-FREE.
    This is absurd.

    They’ve ALREADY have lost the content war, they’ve already utterly lost control.
    Trying to lock down specific distribution systems like this is a colossal waste of time and resources.
    They should instead be focusing on making it more friendly and available to customers.

    I might have actually used netflix for android, but, now, when I want to watch a movie on a long train ride, I will be sure to just download the torrent, run it through ffmpeg (would only take minutes on my i7 desktop), and copy it over to an SD card.

    Thanks for failing, losers.

  4. droiduser Says:

    I wonder if the movie studios saw the DRM ahead of time…

  5. FrankG Says:

    Well the next version of the Android OS … Android 3.Whathaveyou will have a standard API for DRM.


  6. robert Says:

    Yes, a nice, open source DRM scheme that we can port into mencoder.

  7. Peter Ashford Says:


    Given that this is an Apple fanboy site, I shouldn’t expect any better.

    Claiming that Netflix cannot be implemented on Android due to ‘fragmentation’ when it’s really because the API doesn’t support it is pretty pathetic.

  8. Jim Says:

    This post represents my opinion quite nicely:

    It amazes me that writers do not understand this simple point. They saw the word “fragment” and jumped to conclusions right away without fully understanding the original article.

    Android is missing a DRM feature – which Netflix never fully explained and to get around this, they are working with handset makers to add this feature.

    This is not fragmentation. This is actually pretty cool considering that they are able to get around limitations imposed by the operating system.

    If Android 2.3 added this feature, this problem or “so-called” fragmentation will disappear.

  9. olivier Says:

    shouldn’t the title be “Why there’s still no Netflix app for Android – DRM”. Of course, DRM’s not a problem for Apple, we all know Apple loves controlling things.

  10. TechNoNerd Says:

    I am confused…I just bought googleTV (Logitech revue). The system runs on android…Guess what? There is a Netflix App..


  11. Bryon Says:

    Google Tv has Netflix, and that is Android based OS.

  12. Says:

    DRM is still a problem? I thought we got rid of that nonsense by now. My non-DRMed videos play just fine on my Droid…

  13. Bogan Jerkosovic Says:

    DRM is not a “feature”. iDiocy.

  14. Rob Says:

    OK drm is the studios way of restricting content to prevent piracy, netflix streams movies on an all you can eat basis which kind of negates the need for piracy, so you’re saying Android is limited for not having the ability of locking down content that doesnt need to really be locked down…Hmmmmmmm.
    And presenting apple and Microsoft Windows phones as positive examples because they allow this nonsense.

    In other words your razing google because they wont screw the customer and lauding apple and Microsoft because they can and will?


  15. Electrofreak Says:

    Adding the word “Fragmentation” to this article is ridiculous. As mentioned by several other commenters, Android not having DRM (as it is an open source OS and DRM is exactly the opposite of open) has absolutely nothing to do with OS fragmentation.

    But, it’ll definitely make your article get more hits. Good job.

  16. Jim Says:

    You guys don’t get it. People want easy. The sooner you all figure that out, the better. No one wants to waste time with useless crap like this. It’s not about apple and droids. It’s about easy, and right now, apple is easiest. Sorry that apple gets it, but they do at this moment in time.

  17. joe Says:

    DRM is not a feature. DRM @()!@*(. Don’t use Netflix or any companies products which support it. I haven’t bought a iAnything or even rented a DVD from Netflix. It isn’t worth it. You can watch plenty of movies online. They can be streamed. Yes. Torrents work too, but that isn’t required for most movies. I haven’t had a shortage of content to watch. You can find content all over the web that is not DRM’d. Yes legit too. Some sites stream illegitimate content as well. Half the movies are on http://www.youtube.com and the other half are on http://www.hulu.com. Companies like Apple, Microsoft and Netflix which go out of the way to prop up DRM need to be eliminated from our purchasing decisions. You can also check out http://www.surfthechannel.com for a listing of places to go for other TV shows and movies. For free (think freedom, not no-cost) computers check out http://www.thinkpenguin.com and in Europe check out http://www.open-pc.com.

  18. Gary Says:

    Fragmentation is an issue. If the OS was not Fragmented with every manufacturer offering a different version of the OS then one solution to the lack of DRM would work. But because the OS is so Fragmented they have to work separately with each manufacturer to get a solution. If that is not a fragmentation issue what is?

  19. Catharine Says:

    Hands down, Apple’s app store wins by a mile. It’s a huge selection of all sorts of apps vs a rather sad selection of a handful for Zune. Microsoft has plans, especially in the realm of games, but I’m not sure I’d want to bet on the future if this aspect is important to you. The iPod is a much better choice in that case.

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