Netflix launches for Android: faces fragmentation, competition | Android Apps

Netflix launches for Android: faces fragmentation, competition

May 13, 2011

Netflix app has finally arrived on Android, marking a new era for mobile video, and the Netflix strategy. There’s a growing line of competitors anxious to take advantage of new on-demand services, particularly in the video sector. But for Netflix, maintaining its lead through widespread accessibility hits a snag on Android’s platform. Having already launched for iOS, Netflix’s Android approach is already limited by the myriad of devices its app must support. Android fragmentation has been a major obstacle for Netflix, and the company has moved forward with its launch, supporting only a handful of high-end Android devices.

Netflix will have to stay focused if it’s to dominate the Android video on-demand market, with Amazon and Google even launching their own services. Just this week, Google announced a new movie rental service, upgrading YouTube and presenting Android users with another media portal. Amazon, which is also ramping up its personal media cloud services, reportedly has a movie service, Unbox, that will work on the HTC Thunderbolt, inadvertently extending its services to Android devices as well.

But fragmentation still remains an issue for app developers like Netflix, delaying the universality of its service and marketing. While Google continues to make promises to unify its mobile operating system, fragmentation is still an obstacle for many app makers that must now manage an entire portfolio of mobile apps and services. Android’s managed to make waves in the smartphone space, but as tablets become more prevalent, there’s an unavoidable reminder that Android must continue to evolve in today’s market.

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Netflix already streams video to Apple’s iOS devices, the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, but until the LG Revolution smart phone hits shelves, Android users are pretty much out in the cold with no Netflix to watch. But some resourceful hackers have managed to change that, if only slightly, and distribute the Netflix app around the Internet.

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The Netflix app for the LG Revolution was shown during the Mobile World Congress 2011 last month in Barcelona, and the Revolution is currently the only phone getting it. Not all Android phones are really capable of handling the app, which allows users to browse their Netflix queues as well as stream movies and TV shows to their handsets using an Internet connection.

But as MobileCrunch points out in its story, hackers have apparently gotten a hold of the Revolution, flipped it over and poured it out all over the Internet. They also managed to dig out the Netflix app and make it available for download for Android users to download. The app is currently available at DroidLife, and it’ll let you remotely browse and update your Netflix queues, which is a pretty great ability to have when you’re out in the world.

As it turns out, the hacked Netflix app seems incapable of connecting to Netflix’s servers, but the problem isn’t one with the app, but rather on Netflix’s end. It seems that, eventually, Netflix will just turn the service on like opening a faucet, and the hope is that the hacked app will just work after that, on any device to which it is downloaded. It might not be as simple as all that, though.

According to Mobile Crunch, the Netflix app is only supposed to work on certain Android devices, and in order to ensure security, the video provider partnered up with chip maker Qualcomm to create DRM/security features for the app. They require a device to contain specific hardware in its chipset, which is more than they might normally include, in order to enable streaming playback. That might be a security step to limit how Netflix gets piped out to different Android devices and cellular carriers, and if that’s the case, it seems to be working — putting the kabosh on streaming video as it stands right now.
Still, Netflix is by no means a company that sits still when there are users to whom it could be providing service. The company has amped up its standing with Apple devices and continues to expand its streaming business, and it’s really only a matter of time before Netflix starts (legitimately) popping up all over the Android sphere as well.

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Netflix has a huge stake in streaming, which it seems to think is where its business is headed, so much so that it wants to directly compete with cable companies by distributing its own original shows. Netflix has already bankrolled its own movies with its Red Envelope studio, and is now reportedly in talks with Kevin Spacey and director David Fincher.

So it’s not like Netflix doesn’t have a huge interest in bringing as much content to as many people in as many ways as possible. Despite lingering security issues and the streaming switch not yet being flipped, Netflix generally expands toward being more open and available over time. Stay patient, Android owners. Those streaming Family Guy episodes will probably be yours before too long.

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