As more and more television networks start making their content available on-line, the need for a traditional cable or satellite service continues to diminish. Yet one of the biggest obstacles isn't necessarily the quality of the content, but it's accessibility from the couch. Hulu.com is great when you're sitting at a computer, but few people are willing to give up their traditional remote control for a keyboard and mouse on the couch.
There is still a hefty cost of entry as in order to get the most out of Hulu Desktop, you still need to have a computer hooked up to your TV with a pretty fast internet connection. It does seem likely, however, that more electronics manufacturers are looking to integrate services like Hulu into their devices. By the time you pick up your next TV, DVD player or game console, it may already have Hulu built-in.
Hulu's Desktop application takes a significant step in bridging the gap between computer and TV. The interface is designed to be used with a remote control and is already configured to work with the Macintosh's built-in IR receiver and remote control or the remote supplied with Windows Media Center for the Windows folks. Previously, I had been accessing Hulu through Plex using one of the developer created plug-ins, but I find the Hulu Desktop application to have some significant advantages over the Plex implementation:
Hulu Desktop allows you to login and access subscriptions to get to what you're looking for faster
Hulu Desktop remembers where you left off on shows and allows you continue where you left off
Hulu Desktop allows for fast-forwarding and rewinding within a program.
There were some drawbacks with Hulu Desktop as well
Content library is huge and can be slow to navigate using just a remote control
When using Plex to launch Hulu Desktop, it seemed that Hulu would not "take over" the remote control which required me to use a keyboard or the iPhone app, Snatch, to navigate.
As per usual Hulu standards, you are forced to watch a few commercials in exchange for the free content they are providing online, but in comparison to the amount of time you'd spend watching commercials on a traditional broadcast, the commercials are significantly less. As for picture quality, depending on your internet speed you can get some really good results. The quality was better than standard definition tv, but not quite up to true HDTV standards. Audio seemed to be limited to stereo, but for TV shows, it was sufficient.
I would love for Hulu to open up their API to provide developers for applications such as Plex, XBMC or Boxee more access to the advanced features as I'd prefer to use a single application for all my multimedia (music, videos, movies, tv etc). Until then, however, Hulu Desktop has enough additional features that it makes it worthwhile to switch to yet another app.