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Monday June 27, 2011 9:01 pm

Why is the HTC Evo View 4G the first Android tablet that supports Netflix?


HTC Evo View netflix

Here comes the HTC Evo View 4G! And it's packing a lot of firsts for its Friday debut on Sprint: The tablet is Sprint's first 4G Android tablet to hit the market, period–that's the first tablet set up to work with the company's 4G WiMax network—around 5 Mbps downloads and 950 Kbps uploads.

Most importantly—for movie buffs—the HTC Evo View 4G is the first tablet to ship with built-in support for Netflix movie and video streaming. In doing so, it joins an exclusive club of Android devices that support the service: A sad list that's currently limited to just nine Android smartphones.

So what's the deal? Are other Android-equipped devices—both phones and tablets—just too slow to run Netflix? Not necessarily. A Sprint spokeswoman confirmed in an interview with Wired that the company performed plenty of testing to ensure that Netflix streaming would proceed smoothly across the company's network.

The more realistic answer as to why you can't yet get Netflix on, say, a Motorola Xoom tablet, is the ugly monster that often rears its head whenever Android upgrades are discussed: Fragmentation. In the case of Netflix, the company has to perform extra research and configuration to ensure that the digital rights management systems it employs work across a number of Android devices. And that's not just a work-once, works-everywhere kind of proposal.


"Setting aside the debate around the value of content protection and DRM, they are requirements we must fulfill in order to obtain content from major studios for our subscribers to enjoy," wrote Netflix's Greg Peters in a November 2010 blog post. "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."

And if you think issues of fragmentation are just constrained to Netflix, think again. Even Hulu hasn't been able to get its Hulu Plus streaming app up-and-running on an Android tablet. The company's streaming television launched supporting six Android smartphones, and there's no indication of what the timeline might be to bring the service to these devices' larger cousins.

But even though you might cheer at the Netflix support on HTC's Evo View 4G, the service comes with its own price: The HTC Evo View 4G ships with the older "Gingerbread" release of Android, or 2.3—an upgrade to Honeycomb, or 3.0, is expected to arrive via a future software update. But at least you can stream movies while you wait?

This article, written by David Murphy, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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