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My current Hulu+ experience is akin to a Rube Goldberg machine. I purchased a very cool $10 application for my Mac Pro — AirParrot. AirParrot is screen mirroring for OS X. Yes, OS X does not yet allow the full screen of a Mac to be displayed on Apple TV. That feature is coming in OS X Mountain Lion. Amazing, because Windows 7 has been able to do this for some time, if you buy the right laptop. That’s cool, because some people may not want it, and may opt for a cheaper computer. The Windows ecosystem has much more choice.
The new way of getting Hulu+ on my TV is convoluted. First I start my TV and turn on Apple TV. Then I run into the bedroom, boot up the Mac, change the screen resolution, turn on AirParrot and Splashtop. Splashtop is iOS/OS X software that allows the iPad or iPhone to remote control a computer. Did you think I want to get off my duff to pause or pick another show? So instead of just having a laptop push Hulu to the big screen, I have a power-hungry Mac doing this task, while the iPad is just a client that controls the Mac. I have to make sure to start the Hulu playback from my Mac first, otherwise Splashtop will take the audio channel away from AirParrot. Windows 7 ain’t lookin’ so bad!
This convoluted scheme actually produces decent results. It is 720p. The buffering in the Flash based Hulu web app is superior to their iOS app. I have been doing this for about a week now, and it just works! Hulu claims the 15 second buffer limit on their iPad app is for legal reasons, but I found the same to be true of the Netflix Apple TV app. Who imposed the legal restrictions? I doubt it was the media companies. They want their content to playback with quality. My suspicion is Apple…
So you already knew that using an iPad and Apple TV would not be a great home media center experience, but the iPad is still useful? No, it is not. What can an iPad do that a laptop can’t do better? A laptop is superior in all ways. One may prefer the multi-touch gestures of the iPad, over a trackpad. If you like that, get a MacBook Air. Indeed, a 64GB MacBook Air costs a little more than a 64GB “new” iPad, but can do ten times as much. If you don’t care about multi-touch gestures, get a PC. There are some aspects of multi-touch gestures that have been on PCs for some time — namely using two fingers on the trackpad to scroll.
Beyond the iPad being a poor personal media device, it also sucks at everything else. Surfing the web is so much more limited on an iPad. There is no Flash, but that has been beaten to death. You can actually get a Flash experience that is as good as most Android devices, using a cloud based browser like Photon for iOS. It is choppy Flash. However, the new Android devices have Flash implementations that work quite well… In fact, the topic of the iPad’s poor web browsing capabilities is so enormous, it deserves to be in a post of its own.
UPDATE: Hulu released a new Hulu Plus app for iOS as well as a Hulu Plus app for Apple TV. Hulu’s iOS and Apple TV experience is much better!