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Netflix for iPad: A Pleasant Surprise, Hope for Flash

Netflix comes to the iPad

San Jose, CA  —  Last Saturday, when the iPad made its premiere, fellow Genius, Zander and I drew a small crowd in the crowded Apple Store at the Oakridge Mall on Blossom Hill as we expounded the virtues and vices (though few) of the new iPad. Perhaps it was because from the moment we got our hands on it, we couldn’t stop talking about it! “Strange! It’s smaller and heavier than I imagined,” I started. And while I began to complain about the dull pain in my left arm as I typed, Zander pointed out that, despite the weight, its size would be its most endearing quality for many.

Our comments, audible to many in the crammed store, made people recognized us as “geniuses” and we began fielding questions ranging from the iPad’s lack of multi-tasking and Flash to whether it would support expandable memory.

And though it was the first time I had held that particular iPad, nothing seemed to catch me by surprise — nothing, that was, until I noticed the Netflix app.

As I hadn’t yet heard of the Netflix app, it seemed out of place as I selected it from the iPad home screen. But what surprised me most was its performance! As a subscriber, it took only seconds to enter my user information, select a movie from the home screen and begin watching. In fact, it seemed to perform even BETTER than the “watch instantly” function that I frequent on my computer (which is free as part of my Netflix subscription).

Reflecting upon the iPad as Zander and I walked out of the store, I kept returning, in my mind, to the Netflix app. Initially intrigued though I was, it didn’t take long to realize the company’s motivation in creating the app. As a Flash dependent site, Netflix could either make this step to bring their business to the iPad or die at the hands of their newly disinterested and frustrated constituency.

This, I believe, is the nature of the predicament that many Flash dependent companies face today. They can make the laborious shift to HTML5, which is Apple’s suggested approach as they now do battle with Adobe, or they can design apps which natively integrate their content with the iPad. While Netflix may ultimately convert their site to run on HTML5, they have made an ingenious decision to now bring this new app into the fray to help close the time gap caused by the move to HTML5.

This decision is not unexpected, however. It was the move which Youtube made, making their app standard on all Apple mobile devices, and now it is Netflix’s move. This choice, I believe, might even be part of the reason why, on Monday (4/5), Netflix stock (NASDAQ : NFLX) leaped 6.65% to $79.99 a share — an increase approximately equal to the entire growth seen this past March.

MOST INTERESTING, however, is what this may ultimately mean for Netflix and other sites alike: FLASH DEPENDENT SITES MAY NOT NEED TO CHANGE TO HTML5 AS APPLE WOULD LIKE. Though Apple’s product popularity gives them powerful influence on internet consumption, I believe this is not the “death knell” of Flash. A game changer though it may be, Apple’s refusal to support it, while also allowing sites to make apps which run their content, does not represent the complete abolition of Flash as has been previously anticipated.

If Flash fails on the internet level, not necessarily the video delivery level, it will be due to its drawbacks as a code, NOT because the “Church of Apple” decrees it to be so.

Want to find out more?!

Visit the websites of the companies discussed in this article: Netflix, Apple, Adobe.

Download / Check out the Netflix app from the iTunes Store!

JOIN THE DEBATE! Let us know what you think! Have you gotten your hands on the new iPad? What are your thoughts on the Netflix move to app based content?

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The Pirates of Netflix

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years (which is not OK — seek help if you have!), you’ve probably become, at the very least, acquainted with the Los Gatos, California based movie rental company, Netflix.

Since its founding in 1997, Netflix quickly grew into the successful, publicly traded company it is today by uniquely cornering the movie rental market. Unlike competitors, Netflix cut costs by doing away with fixed customer rental locations and opted for central distribution facilities from which they would mail discs to customers. In this system, they provide customers with unlimited movie rentals from a huge movie library, with selections in DVD or BluRay form, at one low, monthly, flat rate. And, best of all, there are no late fees!

This revolutionary system single handedly brought movie rental giants, such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, to their knees leaving them scrambling to find ways to compete with Netflix’s winning system. However, this seems to have been in vain, as Netflix reports annual revenues above $1.3 Billion!

What does this have to do with computers, you ask?

Well, seemingly unbeknownst to Netflix, there has been a quiet movement brewing that combines both the affordability of the Netflix system and the ingenuity of some software developers, namely those who developed a program called Handbrake.

Now, I think this is the part where we at The Real Mac Geniuses should say, before we continue, that we share this information in a non criminal activity encouraging or endorsing way. Look at it like this: you know how movies don’t let you fast forward through all that FBI stuff that no one ever reads? Pause a movie one of these days and note that it excplicitly says,

“The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted word is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.”

Yeah! That! BOO!

It turns out that, when the FBI wrote that, they had certain innovative people in mind like those who began using the method I’m about to describe!

Here’s the deal:

On average, Netflix subscribers receive, watch and return their movies in approx. 1 to 3 weeks. Moreover, normal subscribers, in order to view one of those movies again, must wait for Netflix to redeliver the movie (per the person’s movie cue). However, some computer savvy subscribers employ Handbrake to record the movie when they receive it, thus allowing them to watch it whenever they want. After, they return it immediately (or ASAP), maximizing consumption.

Here’s how it works. Upon opening Handbrake, the program automatically detects the location of the movie on the loaded DVD. However, instead of trying to copy the movie file from the disc (which I think is nearly impossible), Handbrake plays the movie and records the output. Granted, this takes some time, but, after a half hour or so, the subscriber has a perfect replication of the movie saved to his hard drive! It’s that simple!

What are the risks? Well, meeting a overly friendly inmate named “Bubba” in federal prison who frequently compliments your “pretty mouth” is one! However, I wish I could say there were more, but, for the most part, these shady subscribers (pirates, sans eye-patch?) do not sell, publicly display or distribute their copies and do not openly attract attention. Granted, there probably are people out there who load them onto peer sharing or bit torrent sites, but, if that were the case, my last copy of Throbin’ Hood (Prince of Beaves) would have downloaded much faster than it did… Just kidding! I don’t use bit torrent sites…

This marriage of Netflix and Handbrake (and the like) ultimately hurts the movie providers (Apple included) who eventually experience declining revenues. That is, as customers become more dependent upon their own illegally assembled libraries, they are less likely to draw from these corporate movie suppliers. If Netflix doesn’t raise subscription prices or somehow render copying applications defunct, widespread pirating could ultimately lead to reduced movie title diversity or even the shut down of these providers. Is the latter very likely? Hard to say, but this is the business of pirating movies.

Moral of the story? There isn’t one, as best I can tell, and I wrote the article!

~BC

What do you think? Leave a comment below!