I read that Netflix was coming to Android early next year and didn’t think too much of it (except that Windows Phone beat them to the punch) but I didn’t realize what the delay was. Turns out, it’s simply a lack of security on Android:

The hurdle has been the lack of a generic and complete platform security and content protection mechanism available for Android. The same security issues that have led to piracy concerns on the Android platform have made it difficult for us to secure a common Digital Rights Management (DRM) system on these devices. Setting aside the debate around the value of content protection and DRM, they are requirements we must fulfill in order to obtain content from major studios for our subscribers to enjoy. Although we don’t have a common platform security mechanism and DRM, we are able to work with individual handset manufacturers to add content protection to their devices. Unfortunately, this is a much slower approach and leads to a fragmented experience on Android, in which some handsets will have access to Netflix and others won’t. This clearly is not the preferred solution, and we regret the confusion it might create for consumers. However, we believe that providing the service for some Android device owners is better than denying it to everyone.

Basic security features shouldn’t be ‘fragmented’. Google needs to fix this. Not just for Netflix but for all developers out there that expect and deserve to be able to provide content that’s protected. Until that happens, all Android users will suffer without top tier software.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, I understand the point of this article, and the concerns that netfix has. The think I don’t get is why android is singled out. Windows phones have always been hackable in one way or another. If they weren’t, xda-developers wouldn’t exist. Iphone can be jailbroken. Android, at it’s core is customizable and “hackable” if you will. This is by design so that the platform can grow dynamically and organically to the market.

    I feel like rooting the problem with netflix on fragmentation is still a cop out. On any platform, drm is only like a lock on a screen door.

    Just because motorola has a bootloader lock on the Droid X doesn’t mean that netflix is any safer on it. It’s still rooted, and the entire system partition can be re-built. Just like windows phones. Remember that site that posts up the wp7 xap files that can be unzipped to view source code. The files are on the device, where there is a will to get at the content, someone will find a way.

    Don’t single out android because your devs don’t understand the platform and how to secure your content. Others are doing it.

  2. Netflix, that’s really all you got? After three years that’s the only example you’re aware of regarding a decision not to lace up phones with something many consumers hate you can only name one “top tier” bit of software we don’t yet have as a result of not having DRM? Could you at least make one up and describe it so I could sort of conceptualize what you’re talking about?

    Did you know that out of the 3620 times Netflix and WP7 which appear on WMPU’s pages, Android is mentioned 3500 times? It’s fucking pathetic. Think about that. Find me an Android item that some Android blog talked about and brought up how it still hasn’t made it to WP7 ten out of ten instances. Obviously there isn’t such a thing, this behavior is unique to you and your friends on the Windows sites.

    Why wouldn’t these guys just throw in the towel on Android — oh right, because that’s the thing everyone’s buying and they’d better not just put all their chips on WP7 to generate their revenue with this software… better go through some hoops to schlep it onto some Android phones either with or without DRM if it comes to that.

    Google’s got other things to do than fix things that aren’t broken.

    In contrast, Microsoft needs to fix a lack of consumer interest in their phones.

  3. @plower.net: Hackability and DRM are seperate. DRM protects copyrights of files like movies. Even WM had DRM although if you used some hacked ROMs that stripped DRM then DRM music didn’t play on it (I know from experience).
    @Simmons- DRM doesn’t give you security- it gives the developer security that their content isn’t being ripped off

    And to be clear, this isn’t ‘my’ issue – the bulk of the article is a quote from netflix who definitely wants to bring content to as many platforms as possible but has an inability to here.

  4. @David K I can see that this is mostly quoted from netflix. My points were not meant to be directed right at you. I know that hackability and DRM are separate, but only to a degree. If I have drm protected content on a device, and I have superuser rights to that device, at some point, I can bypass the drm protection.

    I’m just saying, that maybe android isn’t the problem, it’s the users. This is a stereotype, but maybe, just maybe, android users are more technically savvy than the others, and therefore are more likely to discover/create exploits for these types of things.

  5. I’m just trying to understand how anyone could consider streaming movies on the go (or within wifi range?) using your cellphone to be worth doing, let alone a top tier kind of luxury. Let alone something worth doing at the cost of having DRM, something which has a history of both not working in spite of Hollywood’s obsession with it and being a vessel for viruses and rootkits. How’s that for security?

    If I’m understanding this right, that because of fragmentation it’s harder to shove DRM onto my phone, thank God for that.

    The only good thing I suppose about DRM is that it creates jobs, even though they may add no utility to the world.

    From the Netflix blog: “So, just to make sure I am understanding this correctly… The Android Netflix Player has been delayed because there is too much freedom on that platform? Interesting…”

  6. “with or without DRM if it comes to that”? I doubt the content providers (e.g., the studios) would be as forgiving as the content consumers. Netflix has a legitimate issue it is trying to address with Android.

    As for WMPU on Netflix missing from Android, that’s not quite a fair comparison. (1) WP7 is the new kid with something to prove against entrenched players and (1) WMPU is a pompom winphreak site. A better comparison would be Android sites that point out missing apps or functionality from iPhone or Blackberry.

  7. I have been using Netflix on my iPhone and I am underwhelmed anyway. Seriously there isn;t that many good movies to pick from. And all the old movies are not available for instant view. I added a image for you David.

  8. Doug, you’re falling into “because I have no use for it, why the hell should anyone else?” syndrome. I actually agree with you, streaming movies on my cell phone is dumb, but hey, there are idjuts out there who want to do just that. And probably it’s more a matter of they want the option to do it…which, as an aside, is a major reason why consumers choose Netflix over Blockbuster’s Total Access program, even though Blockbuster has a more robust DVD my mail offering, and 90% of them will not be streaming video on any platform (let alone a cell phone) in the near future.

  9. Come on D.Sim, if Android was first out of the game with this app I would be reading about how kick ass Android and Google are for getting this to work and how only an Android device with its superior build and processor could handle the demands of streaming movies over the air. Personally, I couldn’t care less. Movies were made to be viewed on big screens, the bigger the better. And I don’t mean a 5″ Dell or iPad. More like 46″ and larger.

    Hey, just lock out any device that has been rooted, jailbroken or comprimised in any way. That’s fair and honest.

  10. I think something many people are missing is the issue here isn’t netflix, android, or google.. it’s the content owners. They are clinging onto this delusion that some kind of DRM system is the holy grail to prevent their movies from being pirated. They completely ignore the fact that pirates are MUCH more likely to rip the DVD/BRD since ti’s an easy to get, easy to read, and much higher quality source. Netflix can’t do anything w/o the MPAA’s permission, since they don’t own any content…. they are just the conduit.

  11. […] you’ve got some Google Voice-like service and might, just might, get Skype one day, yes you got Netflix first, yes you in general seem to have more passion about your phones on sites like this and WMPU at […]

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