The Open Source Consortium has threatened to make a complaint to the European Commission regarding the BBC iPlayer, unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have made any impression on the BBC and they certainly do not appear to be changing their position.
What’s so shocking about this whole iPlayer business is not that initially the iPlayer will only work on Windows PCs, that was to be expected really and happens with most software, nor even the DRM that will come bundled with each programme, but the fact that the BBC has stated that it may not be able to keep to its time-frame of 24 months for bring the iPlayer to the Mac! Two years to produce a simple media player for the Mac, may not be long enough?
That means that as a Linux user, I won’t have a hope in hell of getting a Linux version, unless the BBC allow one to be developed by the Open Source Community, but I am putting that hope in the same pile as the BBC deciding not the ship the programmes with DRM, and me getting a late night call from Jessica Alba begging for sex.
The thing that bothers me is just why weren’t they producing a Mac, Windows and Linux version of the iPlayer simultaneously? It’s not as if they were waiting to see if it were popular enough to warrant making it available on other platforms like other software, and their initial mandate stated that the iPlayer should be able to run on a variety of systems. Yet it has taken almost three years just to produce a Windows Version of the iPlayer and programmes that can be played in Windows Media Player, all with Microsoft DRM. Precisely what were they doing for the past three years then? Designing a GUI for their player?
They could have saved a fortune and years of work by just saying ‘Use Windows Media Player’, it comes built into Windows anyway (the only system that is compatible with the iPlayer), so why bother to produce their own player? Even if the end user didn’t have it, they could download it for free in far less time that downloading the programme.
Another far easier, and I think viable option, that would have enabled the programmes to be viewed on all platforms, would be to have them DRM free. I know that the BBC is concerned about its copyright and is trying to protect its income in DVD sales, but I think that they have missed an opportunity here. They could have a two tier system of downloads, one section free to download and of course DRM free, decent quality Xvid, MPEG-4 or MPEG2. The other very high quality, or better yet High Definition, MPEG-4 programmes at say 50p each.
There are millions of high definition capable TV’s hooked up to PC’s all over the country, and those that aren’t have a high definition TV already, their PC monitor. The problem with all these high definition TVs is that while they look big and flashy, other than DVDs, everything looks crap on them. Very few people have High Definition signals to show off their TVs.
Even less people have or want very expensive Blu Ray (and that other one, what’s it called? Betamax?) players in their living rooms. The BBC probably isn’t going to be able to offer HD signals itself anyway, but that another story, but there is nothing to stop them offering the downloads.
Imagine being able to watch the whole series of say Rome, in high definition? You could watch in normal quality either on TV or via the iPlayer for free or you could watch the whole series in HD for just £5! Who wouldn’t want to do that if they had a HD TV? And with Media Centre PCs becoming more and more prevalent the Beeb could have tapped into an emerging market, HD TV on Demand, via the Internet.
Unfortunately this is never likely to happen, the BBC will cram everything with DRM, and the programme itself is likely to be crap quality, at least if their streamed services are anything to go by. As for the BBC providing a cheap and easily accessible way to view HD content, I think that they’ll most likely wait and release them on Blu Ray, for the higher profit margins.