For some background, Hulu has been involved in a back-and-forth battle with the social media center application, boxee, which allows users to access online content from their Mac or Apple TV and makes big-screen viewing a pleasure. The last big boxee update changed how boxee serves Hulu content, in an effort to make it more difficult for Hulu to pull the plug.
Hulu's justification (well, one of many justifications) for going after boxee was that the content is designed to be viewed from a web browser and not from the couch. Although the tagline for Hulu Desktop, "Lean-back viewing for your PC," keeps the sematic difference between a 24" LCD monitor and a 25" LCD TV in check, the execution, especially with extensive remote support, seems to say something else.
I don't know, maybe Hulu really believes that people won't be using this application with their TV-connected Macs or Windows Media PCs, but this app certainly feels like it was meant for big screens.
Regardless of the double-speak, how well does this application actually work? Well, based on my limited testing (I did want to get this post done), it is awesome. I totally want to figure out if the arbitrary system requirements can be bypassed so this can get running on the Apple TV.
The interface is great. Although Hulu Desktop didn't take up the full-screen of my 22" external monitor when it was initially launched, a quick ⌘-F will take you full screen. I should also note that the size of the application window was larger than 1280x800 by default, so mobile users might get the "full screen" upon launch experience.
The Apple remote works flawlessly with the Hulu application. My only problem was with my screensaver -- unlike FrontRow, Hulu doesn't turn the screensaver off when playing back content. I also managed to crash the application, but that's to be expected.
All in all, finding programming to watch is easy and intutiive, not unlike the original Hulu implementation in boxee. Switching from playing a program to searching for others is easy (the Menu button) and fast-forwarding through content is a joy. As a long-time boxee user who hates trying to fast-forward or rewind Hulu playback (even before they switched serving mechanisms), this is nice. By default, my Internet connection played back everything at High Quality (you can adjust this in the settings), and the quality looked even better than in the browser.