• Two reliable ways to stream internet flash video to an iPad

    Apple iPad

    We finally bought a nifty new iPad 2, just in time for the iPad 3 to come out. No worries, I don't use the camera for much that is going to matter between 720p and 1080p, although I do get a little bummed that my phone is faster than my iPad. While I'm really liking the iPad overall (when I thought I wouldn't), I must say that I'm also finding little annoyances along the way. One such annoyance is the inability to play flash video on the iPad. In this article I'm going to highlight two ways to reliably watch internet flash video on your iPad.

    The first night with the iPad, I brought it up to watch The Biggest Loser in bed as our ecobee shut the furnace down. I first went to nbc.com and was simply shown a message that media was not available for this device. I then went to Hulu.com and was presented with a message that I could try Hulu Mobile for one month and $7.99 a month thereafter. Possibly not a bad deal, but sort of lame considering watching it on a PC is free. I'm starting to get accustomed to the fact that everything for the iPad costs money where I can get the same things free on a PC or my Droid. A couple of quick Google searches confirmed the flash problem (which I should have known about), and a few websites showed hacks with open source software that looked like more than I wanted to do for my "user friendly, just sit down and it works" iPad.

    Flash video - denied! - Apple iPad

    Discouraged I put the iPad away and succumbed to the possibility that I'd have to haul the laptop upstairs again, stream on there, have the video start getting choppy after awhile because Dell put the processor cooling fan on the bottom and the little rubber feet obviously don't work for clearance on bedding, and then end up holding it up off of the sheets. So much for my nice user-friendly iPad tablet, but I digress.

    PlayOn and streaming video within your home

    PlayOn logo on iPad

    Then I had an idea. I've talked in length about our success streaming internet video to our Samsung TV with PlayOn, it surely had an iOS app. I went to the Apple Store and, to my delight, there was a PlayOn app and it was free. I loaded PlayOn and in less than 5 minutes we were watching The Biggest Loser, direct from Hulu, in very good quality.

    The PlayOn menu within the iPad app

    I should mention that PlayOn is not free and it requires beefy equipment on your end as it transcodes video from the internet to whatever device you are watching on. Transcoding simply means it pulls it down in one format and converts it to a format your device understands. Transcoding, at the minimum, requires a good dual core machine, and if you want to be safe, a quad core is recommended. We use our repurposed TiVo and it barely keeps up, especially when Windows decides it needs to go check for updates. I'm considering swapping the board in that box to keep up with PlayOn.

    The show menu within the PlayOn iPad app

    Three subscription prices are available, $79.99 pay-once lifetime fee (includes free Roku box), $4.99 a month subscription, and a $29.99 annual subscription fee. The lifetime option made the most sense as we use it heavily and probably will for some time. If you already have a machine in the house that is powerful enough to run PlayOn, then this option for streaming internet flash video to your iPad might be the right one for you. Cost of admission with equipment in place is not bad and it will serve you well for the unforeseeable future. PlayOn will not help you at all if you want to watch flash video away from your home, such as at the local wifi hotspot.

    OnLive Desktop, the solution if you don't have equipment onsite and want to watch remotely

    OnLive Desktop logo within iPad app

    If you don't have a computer in your home powerful enough to run PlayOn or you simply want to watch internet flash videos at places other than your home, OnLive Desktop may be the right choice for you. OnLive Desktop is a cloud-based Windows Desktop which you access with an app available for free for your iPad or Android tablet. The Plus version, which you'll need for watching flash video, is $4.99 a month. OnLive Desktop is FAST. The internet connection is what they've deemed gigabit-accelerated and more than likely maxxed out the internet speed tests I ran on it for my review on SmallCloudBuilder. I ran a few tests of streaming video with OnLive Desktop and it performed flawlessly, sound and all. Maximized it appears as if it's simply a video running right on your iPad. The user-friendliness is where it falls short to PlayOn. PlayOn presents easy to navigate menus, whereas watching videos in OnLive Desktop is browser-based. Once you navigate to the videos however, it is perfect.

    OnLive Desktop Windows desktop

    So let's review:

    MediaMall PlayOn
    PlayOn logo
    OnLive Desktop
    OnLive Desktop logo
    Price $4.99 a month, or
    $29.99 a year, or
    $79.99 once
    $4.99 a month
    Ease of use
    to get to videos
    Friendly navigation menus in an app Browser-based with your finger as the mouse once inside the app
    Viewing when not
    at home
    No, only local to your network
    EDIT: Yes, after configuring mobile access in PlayOn.
    Yes, anywhere you can access the internet
    Equipment required At least a good dual core CPU, preferably a quad core None, just your tablet
    Video quality Usually very good, depends on your CPU, internet connection and other things running on the machine Exceptional

    Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, and both work very well when set up the right way. If you're looking for a way to reliably watch internet flash video on your iPad, either of these ways will work for you.
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. pearl's Avatar
      pearl -
      I use a dedicated playon server, and want to point out that you are incorrect about only being able to view on your local network. PlayOn has mobile clients (I use the one for IOS) and a browser based access method via m.playon.tv. You need to access your playon server from your local network once from your mobile device, and then you can access it from anywhere you are connected to the Internet. I use the browser based access on my netbook when I travel. It of course will only work as well as your home internet connection and processor allow.

    1. Scott DeLeeuw's Avatar
      Scott DeLeeuw -
      Good point, I completely forgot about that since I don't use the mobile portion of it. How does the mobile client work for you?
    1. pearl's Avatar
      pearl -
      It works decently, certainly not like at home connected on the same subnet, but it does work. I have tested it a few times, using both the IOS client on my phone and the web client on my netbook. You need a decent internet connection on the client, and good upstream speed from your home or where ever your PlayOn server is (I get a little over 5Mbps up), and decent down on the client. For example, I had a spotty WiFi connection at a hotel i was staying at a few weeks ago and the video kept buffering. On the other hand, from that same city I used the IPhone client while stuck on a plane on the runway and had no issue watching a few episodes of a show. I still need to investigate a bit deeper on if there is a good way to optimize it. I will say though, I was very impressed with the way that it self configures. Use the client at home once (on the same subnet as the server) and then you have to do nothing else to connect to your playon server when on the road. Pretty neat.
    1. Scott DeLeeuw's Avatar
      Scott DeLeeuw -
      Wow, that's nice. I really haven't explored that aspect of it because I haven't perceived the need for it. I may have to simply try it however, especially if the self-configuration is that easy.
    1. James Intriglia's Avatar
      James Intriglia -
      I use the Photon web browser to play Flash-based videos on my iPad 3 - works great! I've got a link to Photon on the web page that follows, along with some other apps that I find really useful: http://jimintriglia.com/business-computing/
    1. Scott DeLeeuw's Avatar
      Scott DeLeeuw -
      Thanks for the suggestion Jim, I'll check it out!
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