Boxee, Hulu, and Corporate Lies

My favorite part of owning my own home is that have a dedicated home theater.  It's certainly not as impressive as the basement theaters showcased on AVS Forum but I enjoy it.  I also have a dedicated Home Theater PC (HTPC) on which I run both XBMC and Boxee.  If you haven't used Boxee, it's a great piece of software that marries locally stored content with content from the web.  Naturally, one the great sources online for content is Hulu--and up until February 2009, Boxee had great Hulu support including forced playback of all the ads you would see were you viewing the content on the Hulu website.

In February, Hulu made the decision to block Boxee from accessing its content.  Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu, made a passionate blog post about why Hulu was removing Boxee access.

Our content providers requested that we turn off access to our content via the Boxee product, and we are respecting their wishes. While we stubbornly believe in this brave new world of media convergence — bumps and all — we are also steadfast in our belief that the best way to achieve our ambitious, never-ending mission of making media easier for users is to work hand in hand with content owners. Without their content, none of what Hulu does would be possible, including providing you content via Hulu.com and our many distribution partner websites.

Fast Forward to May 28 when Hulu releasaes their Hulu Desktop product to copious amounts of fanfare.  While I applaud their moving forward, I can't help but now see Hulu as a very dishonest company.

Before I get too negative here, it's certainly possible that these content providers have changed their stance on providing alternative, non-browser interfaces to Hulu that seem better designed for a more traditional mode of viewing television content.  If that's the case, I certainly applaud the content providers as well for embracing the future!

Unfortunately, there is evidence that the reality is that Hulu intended to compete in this space and wants to shut any potential competing technology out of its system.  Most notably is a warning dialog that appears on a mac when running Hulu Desktop stating (incorrectly) that Boxee can cause problems with the Apple Remote.  Additionally, their deliberate blocking of Boxee's new, browser-based method of accessing Hulu through Boxee continue today.  Team Boxee has already requested that they be allowed to reintegrate Hulu into Boxee now that the situation has changed--and the response will be very telling of Hulu's intentions.

I truly hope that this is a case of "we changed our minds," but I fear that the situation was more about Hulu giving up 100% control over the interface than the fears of content providers.

That said, I enjoy the notion that I can now (with full support) view Hulu content on my HTPC through an interface clearly designed for television use. However, the experience is soured by not being integrated as Boxee was able to provide it.  And, of course, by the diminished respect I have for a company I appear to be unable to trust.