Hulu cuts off PlayBook access

hulu playbookDespite gloomy predictions about its launch, RIM’s PlayBook debuted to surprisingly good sales. But it’s about to suffer a setback, now that Hulu has blocked the tablet’s access to its content. Apparently, the streaming service doesn’t look too kindly on RIM’s deferring to the mobile browser instead of relying on apps, so it cut the infant device off entirely.

Hulu’s new subscription service, Hulu Plus, directly markets itself to the mobile device crowd and is accessible via downloadable application. It costs $7.99 a month and gives tablet and smartphone users unlimited access to its vast array of digital content. So it makes sense that Hulu isn’t terribly keen on the idea of PlayBook users foregoing this option in favor of using the tablet’s Internet browser and connecting to the streaming service for free on – which they were able to up until today.

This just adds a little insult to injury for RIM. The company’s CEO is now infamously attached to the phrase “You don’t need an app for the web,” which has become less and less true the more iOS and Android dominate the mobile marketplace. A huge hurdle the PlayBook had in its path prior to launching was the lack of an established app store, which it sidestepped by integrating with Android’s app store. And now the whole philosophy of letting the Internet serve as the PlayBook’s access to applications is being thwarted yet again. Which is too bad for a number of reasons: Mostly because it cuts off things like Hulu for its users, but also because a superior, Flash-friendly, mobile web experience is one of the PlayBook’s biggest draws.

PlayBook users are now greeted by “We notice that you are trying to access Hulu from your BlackBerry browser. Right now, this device is not supported.” This is quickly becoming a classic Hulu (and streaming services in general) move; it’s previously blocked the PS3, Google TV, and the Xoom. Once they’ve introduced a subscription model, you can kiss free access goodbye – unless of course, you’re on a real computer. More and more this is becoming a ridiculous distinction. Connected TVs and tablets are spitting distance from a traditional PC, and denying them content as they proceed to completely flood the marketplace and invade living rooms everywhere can only work for so long.

Regardless, it’s a step back for the PlayBook, which has some catch up to do anyway. But according to the Wall Street Journal, RIM isn’t giving up yet: “We are in conversations with Hulu to bring the Hulu Plus subscription service to BlackBerry PlayBook users,” a spokeswoman for the company says, and Hulu has confirmed that as well.