Home Blockbuster Brings New Releases to Android, Windows Mobile Phones

Blockbuster Brings New Releases to Android, Windows Mobile Phones

Blockbuster is bringing its OnDemand service to both Windows Mobile and Google Android phones, starting March 24th with the launch of the T-Mobile HTC HD2 smartphone. On that device, Blockbuster customers will be able to download and watch new releases directly on their mobile phones while also gaining access to queue management and movie locator tools similar to those found in Blockbuster’s iPhone application.

The company has also confirmed that they’re working on an Android app, which is likely to launch on the “select Motorola phones” Blockbuster previously hinted at when they partnered with the handset manufacturer last summer. Motorola is the maker of several popular Android-powered handsets including the Droid, Backflip, Devour, Cliq and Cliq XT, but Blockbuster won’t yet confirm which of these will be able to utilize the new mobile service.

Focused on Mobile

Although Blockbuster’s annual report to the SEC hints at the company’s financial troubles – troubles exacerbated by competitors like Netflix and the pop-up video rental kiosks from Redbox – the company has clearly not given up its will to compete. With offerings already available for PCs, Samsung Blu-ray players, Samsung TV sets and Tivos, Blockbuster’s strategy going forward is attacking the mobile front with full force. In the works is an updated iPhone application, an Android application (apparently for the Motorola phones, although the company won’t directly confirm this), the Windows Mobile application for the HD2 and the expectation that more carriers and manufacturers will want to partner with them once they see what the company’s mobile apps can do.

Blockbuster vs Netflix: New Releases vs. Back Catalog

Where Blockbuster differs from Netflix is in its desire to forgo “streaming” in favor of downloads when it comes to their on demand options. Unlike Netflix’s desktop streaming service and newly announced Silverlight-powered app for Windows Phone 7 Series devices, Blockbuster’s OnDemand service for both desktop and mobile actually downloads content to whatever hardware it runs on. According to Scott Levine, Blockbuster’s VP of Digital, it’s not that the company is against streaming per se – it’s just that streaming over 3G is more of a challenge.

Instead of dealing with the network connectivity issues brought on by overloaded wireless carriers or relegating themselves to putting out a limited “Wi-Fi only” type of application, the company’s free mobile apps will actually download the movie a customer rents or purchases to the handset and protect it using DRM (digital rights management) technology.

This solution allows Blockbuster to serve new releases to their mobile customers as opposed to the “back catalog” content which is what, for the most part, Netflix’s streaming service currently provides, says Levine.

No Downloads on Apple Devices, but Working On Other Solutions

However, the technology Blockbuster uses now to serve its movies to mobile devices limits what the company can offer to iPhone, iPod Touch and soon, iPad users. This is due to the fact that Apple restricts apps from saving movies to the device’s hard drive, Levine explains. When asked if they had plans to work around these restrictions in order to launch an iPhone/iPad app, he would only say that the company was “exploring different options” and that they would “love to be there.”

For now though, iPhone owners who use Blockbuster’s mail service can manage their account with the mobile application which will soon be updated with more features. In the new release, there will be improved remote control options for queue management plus tools that help you determine Blu-ray store inventory, games store availability and the availability status for movies in your Blockbuster queue.

More Details on Devices

T-Mobile has just launched the site for the new HTC HD2 smartphone which lists the Blockbuster service among its many features. The status of which Motorola phones will include the new mobile app is still unknown but Motorola’s Android lineup includes several devices running different versions of the Android OS. Both the Backflip, Cliq and Cliq XT come with Android 1.5, but only the Blackflip is upgradeable to 2.1, according to Motorola’s website. The Devour runs Android 1.6 and the Droid runs 2.0. However, Verizon is pushing out the 2.1 update to the Motorola Droid starting this Thursday. 

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