Netflix product developer Greg Peters confirmed on Friday that Netflix streaming will come to select Android handsets in early 2011. In a lengthy blog post, Peters discusses Android and the problems Netflix has encountered while trying to develop a version of its popular streaming application for this mobile platform. According to Peters, Netflix has struggled to implement an adequate Digital Right Management system on Android devices due to security and piracy issues with Google’s mobile OS.
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.
Though it would be easier to do away with DRM, Netflix is unable to do so at this time. Content providers require DRM and they would shut off Netflix’s supply of movies and televisions shows if Netflix tried to push forward with a DRM-free solution.
Peters points out that Netflix has been working with individual manufacturers to address this lack of content protection on the Android platform. Those manufacturers that play nice with Netflix and implement a reliable content protection scheme will be able to include Netflix on their handsets. As a result of this co-operation, only select handsets will receive Netflix by early 2011.
Anytime you have disparity among devices like this, the ugly word fragmentation inevitably rears its ugly head. When explaining Netflix’s choice to debut on some devices and not others, Peters writes,
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.
In the end, Peters promises that Netflix will continue to work with carriers, manufacturers, and the Android community to find a way to get Netflix securely on all Android devices. Until that nirvana is achieved, we can add the availability of Netflix as another criteria by which to judge an Android handset.