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BBC’s iPlayer Gets go Ahead With Microsoft

1 May 2007 by Mother Superior

There has been a small cloud of controversy over the BBC’s development of their on demand services – known as the iPlayer. As they are a little behind the game for visual downloads it’s not surprising that they are eager to launch. So it must have been an inconvenience for them to have to resend the plans through the BBC Trust at this stage because they risk alienating people who do not use Microsoft Windows XP or above.

The original BBC plans for delivering the online video adopt a Microsoft DRM system that will not work for web users with Linux, Unix and Mac operating systems as well as Windows users who have not yet upgraded to XP or above. There was an adage that by the end of two years they would reveal plans for a platform that would no longer alienate the minority operating systems.

The Trust has now given the project the conditional go ahead and brought the timeframe down as stated in their report:

In response to a submission from the BBC Executive, we are dropping our two-year deadline for achieving platform neutrality on seven-day catch-up TV and will instead audit the Executive’s progress every six months.

This change comes after 81% of over 7000 people surveyed said they thought it was very important that non Microsoft users should have equal access to BBC on demand services. However, reading the report further it actually relieves some pressure as there is no specified deadline for achieving platform neutrality now.

We do not consider it practicable to offer catch-up television over the internet on a platform neutral basis immediately. We consider it preferable to allow the BBC to provide value to a majority of users now rather than to wait until full platform neutrality can be achieved before providing catch-up television. We still require platform neutrality for seven-day catch-up television over the internet within a reasonable timeframe, but we have decided not to specify a deadline for achieving this. To counter-balance this, the Trust will take a more active role in holding the Executive to account on the issue by auditing its progress every six months.

By offering something seemingly more progressive to neutrality supporters, has the Trust actually relieved the pressure of a deadline that could mean minority users will have to wait even longer?