If you’re an early adopter of Android Honeycomb tablets hoping that someday down the road, your tablet will get official Netflix support, you may want to stop holding your breath. In the release of the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 tablet, it is learned that Netflix streaming on Honeycomb will remain to be a short exclusive with Lenovo. However, the bigger news is that in order to deliver movies and videos to the tablet, Netflix had to work with Lenovo in implementing a hardware DRM module to ensure that content that’s streamed won’t be pirated.
Essentially, with the hardware DRM module being part of the picture, the solution means that older Honeycomb tablets–like the Motorola Xoom, Asus Eee Pad Transformer, Acer Iconia Tab A500, and others of today–won’t be compatible with Netflix moving forward and that new tablets would need to ship with the required DRM module to enable streaming.
Also introduced as part of the Netflix deal with Lenovo is a new build of the Netflix app which would enable local storage of content for offline viewing. That means that users can essentially download content when they’re in a WiFi zone and then view the videos later when they move away from a WiFi zone. Content can either be stored on local internal storage or on a memory card. The move would help to reduce the burden on mobile broadband connections at a time when carriers are moving towards tiered data plans, and also to help WiFi tablet owners be free from boredom should they plan ahead and download content prior to be stuck away from a hotspot.
At this point, it’s unclear if Netflix intends for the hardware DRM module to be a requirement for basic streaming, or if the company will reserve the requirement for local storage of Netflix content. The likely scenario would be that the DRM module is required also for basic streaming of videos through the Watch Instantly queue as Netflix had certified select Qualcomm Snapdragon and Texas Instruments OMAP 4 cipsets, but not the NVIDIA Tegra 2 chipsets for streaming that’s found on the majority of Android Honeycomb tablets. If it’s a requirement for streaming, it will add to the already fragmented Android platform.