iPlayer coming to Macs… but no word on Linux

The BBC says it will make a download version of its iPlayer available for Macs before the end of this year.

iPlayer coming to Macs... but no word on Linux

The Corporation says it’s making good on its promise to make the iPlayer platform neutral with the Mac offering and the recently added option to stream and download programmes via Firefox. However, it remains ominously silent on bringing the iPlayer to Linux-based systems.

BBC director general, Mark Thompson, admits he’s come under enormous pressure to make the iPlayer cross-platform, which was a condition of the catch-up service passing its Public Value Test. “I have (quite properly) taken quite a grilling from MPs representing the views of constituents deeply concerned that on launch, BBC iPlayer focused on a Windows-based solution,” he says on the BBC internet blog.

Thomson once again repeats the BBC line that DRM remains the barrier to cross-platform compatibility, but says the BBC is making progress. “At the time of development, both the take-up of PCs and the availability of robust, compatible DRM software – software which would satisfy rights holders – meant that a Windows-based solution was accepted as the best technical solution immediately available,” he claims.

“The BBC has, however, always been committed to exploring alternative DRM systems with Real Media, Adobe and Apple and we are part of a consortium looking at developing alternative, cross-platform DRM systems.

“As many people reading this will know, the application to the BBC Trust for approval of the BBC iPlayer expressed the hope that we would be able to provide a platform neutral solution within two years – although it has to be said that the BBC is also dependent on the cooperation of third parties to achieve this.”

Linux minority

Consequently, Thomson says the BBC “is aiming” to launch a Mac download service by the end of the year, but doesn’t specify which DRM system will be used. Neither does he offer any glimmer of hope to Linux users, and even highlights how few Linux viewers the streaming service attracts.

“I’m told that analysis of our streaming stats (since this service is available to all users, it is considered an accurate representation of actual market penetration of those wishing to play BBC content online) shows that 90% of those users are running Windows, as opposed to 9% Mac, and 0.8% Linux,” he states.

Highlighting the marginal Linux audience is a risky move for Thomson, after his director of future media and technology, Ashley Highfield, got himself into hot water with open-source advocates last year by declaring the BBC website had only 400-600 Linux users every week. The actual figure was later revealed to be almost 100,000.

“I recognise that to many people’s minds making this service available to only a proportion of users was not the correct decision, and I accept that for some there is nothing I could say to justify this choice,” Thomson adds.

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