Hulu Labs debuts with desktop app

Blurring the line between computer and TV just a tad more, video-streaming site Hulu puts its content front and center with a new cross-platform desktop app.

Blurring the line between computer and TV just a tad more, video-streaming site Hulu puts its content front and center with a new desktop app for Windows and Mac. Introduced via Hulu's new Labs testing bed, Hulu Desktop is one of four new apps in Labs. The other three include a Video Panel designer for customizing the look of Hulu embeds, a recommendations list, and original air date-based browsing--but Hulu Desktop is the only one available for download.

Hulu's new desktop app on a Windows XP computer.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

There are some stringent limitations to getting the desktop client to run properly, although if your system meets their standards, you'll get to play with some cool features. Windows users must have at least an Intel Pentium Core Duo, with a 1.8GHz processor and 2GB of RAM running Windows XP. Mac users need an Intel Pentium Core Duo, with a 2.0GHz and 2GB of RAM running OS X 10.4 (Tiger). Both Windows and Mac users should have at least a 2 Mbps Internet connection, and Flash 9.0.124 or later is a must.

Once running, the desktop client offers a smooth and reasonable facsimile of the features users should be familiar with from Hulu on the Web. You can use a Windows Media Center remote or an Apple remote to control it, further emphasizing the computer as a TV. Using the standard maximize window button in the upper-right corner of the pane will give you full-screen viewing.

Mouse over the video in the windowed mode to reveal the title of the video playing, its user rating, duration, and a button to jump to the main menu up at the top. A video progress timeline, volume control, buffer status, and video quality indicators live on the bottom. A handy preview pane appears when you mouse over the timeline.

The Hulu Desktop main menu.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

The Web-based Hulu navigation in the menu remains the same. A scroll bar on the left smoothly moves from Now Playing down through Recently Added, TV, and Movies. A search feature available from a magnifying glass icon allows for Hulu-wide searching, and the scroll bar's Search option opens up a slick-feeling virtual keyboard.

In my testing, I encountered no stability issues, although some users have noted other results. The Hulu Desktop beta is currently free, although there's no indication from Hulu whether that will change in the future.

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