Since launching in late 2007, Hulu has done one one thing very well: it lets you watch your favorite TV shows and movies from your computer, free of charge. But aside from improving the user experience with assorted niceties like smart thumbnails, improved navigation, and social features, the site hasn’t really done anything extreme to expand its functionality. That changes today.
One of my only long standing gripes with Hulu was that it could never really replace the TV watching experience simply because you had to sit in front of your computer to control it. Boxee was the perfect solution to this, as it allowed you to control Hulu via remote through a very snazzy media center interface. But Hulu has repeatedly killed that functionality, largely at the behest of its major network investors.
Now Hulu is releasing its own desktop application, allowing you to browse through the site’s content using your computer’s remote control (both the Windows Media Center remote and the Apple Remote are compatible). Both applications are native too, so you won’t have to deal with any quirkiness from Adobe AIR.
Hulu has posted an intro video for the Desktop application, which you can watch below. The app itself doesn’t seem to be live yet (oddly enough, the URL for the application that’s shown in the video is located on the company’s QA server, which requires a password).
But we can probably expect an update later todayUpdate: It’s now live, download it here.
Of course, most people aren’t going to ditch cable in favor of Hulu, simply because they don’t have their computers hooked up to their TVs. They’ll just use it to make their Hulu experience at their computer even better. But for those of us who have been toying with Boxee and similar solutions to replace our cable boxes entirely, this is a very welcome addition.
Update: Looking back on the Boxee fiasco, the news is a bit strange. I (and a number of others) believed that content owners were against giving users this ‘lean-back’ experience entirely, but now Hulu has done just that. Given the change of heart, Boxee is reaching out to Hulu once more to give things another shot. It won’t be surprising if they get turned down though – Hulu may well want to keep all of its content contained in its own application.
Hulu is also planning to launch a new Labs section today,
though details on this are still scarce. The new Labs site has just gone live as well.
Thanks to eagle-eyed TechCrunch alum Nick Gonzalez for the tip.