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While most of the tech commentariat is focusing on the $9.99 subscription price of Hulu Plus, the real game-changer is how it enables us to access scripted entertainment wherever we go.
Although the free Hulu Plus app - which is already available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch - requires the same monthly fee as the browser-based edition, its portability will prove to be priceless.
Since launching its television network and venture capital-backed service with much fanfare in 2008, Hulu now serves up more than one billion videos per month. It took the likes of NBC, Newscorp (NWSA) and the Walt Disney Co. (DIS) to crack the code for how consumers interface with entertainment on the web. Already profitable with $100 million in revenue last year, Hulu’s subscription price will now help the networks mitigate - albeit slightly - against the hundreds of millions of dollars of lost advertising they are losing over the air.
Yet watching Hulu online is just but a blip of its overall potential. To most consumers, it is a luxury (or novelty) to watch online videos from home, the office or a hotel room. Having applications on handheld and tablet devices will lead to more people watching TV (even if they don’t actually view on the sets themselves). Whether or not you condone the societal impact, the entire planet is now in play for watching boob tube.
This means marketers will soon master the practice of offering location-based advertisements to viewers on the go. Producers will take into account the new context of how (and where) their programs are consumed and develop new content offerings around those conditions. Consumers, who have been forced to tap into pirated, second-tier or price-per-download programming to date, can now reliably (and inexpensively when compared to even basic cable) watch the best of what Hollywood has to offer on the new small screen.