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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