My initial answer was one - of course - but then I realized that it is not that easy to answer. One video player is enough to play most videos on my computer, I use SMPlayer for this purpose. But what about all those video portals that TV networks maintain these days or companies that provide you with access to rented videos or streaming video? It is beginning to get a little messy now.
Most TV companies that have published a video site that is offering video download options build their own video player for that.
We got NBC Direct and HBO on Broadband for instance, Netflix and Apple of course. That's four different video players each with its own set of restrictions and limitations.
If you want to use all four services you have to install four different clients that basically do the same but are not compatible with each other.
The messy part begins when you take a look at expiration dates and the like. Do you know when videos that you have downloaded expire in all of these services?
Is there a way to keep track of the dates without having to open all the applications to browse all downloaded videos?
What I mean is that it does not make much sense from a consumer point of view to create one video client per service. The companies on the other hand want full control of the player and their content which is probably the main reason why they do not cooperate with other companies that basically do the same thing.
I can't give an answer to the question above, a universal answer I mean. I still say we only need one player but we probably will end up with one player for each company that is entering the market which could be quite a few.
Update: Video on the Internet moved from downloads to streaming and with it came a switch to using web browsers as the main technology to stream these videos to customers.
While services are still using different technologies for that, for instance Flash or Silverlight, a shift towards HTML5 began recently and it is likely that this is going to be the format of the future.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.