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O iPlayer, Where Art Thou?

The on again, off again saga of iPlayer for the BBC and Windows Phone has been toying with anxious readers for months now. At first the Inquirer said it was coming and then Pocket-lint effectively squashed that rumor just three days later, leaving consumers with little hope for an effective media solution.

The hope was always that Nokia would some how come in and save the day for Windows Phone users but alas, that does not seem to be the case. One of our readers, Paul A., emailed the BBC asking for information as to their reasons for not supporting Windows Phone. Surprisingly, Daniel Danker who is the General Manager of Programmes & On Demand for the BBC gave a very thorough response to Paul’s question as to why there is no Windows Phone support.

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The response can be summarized as the following: Microsoft and Windows Phone use different “technologies” for streaming than iPhone and Android. While the latter two also have their own unique system, it is unique to both so the BBC can recycle their content across both platforms making a wise investment of funds and resources.

 

"Unfortunately Microsoft have also announced that Windows Phone 8 apps will be different yet again, so any Windows Phone 7 app we make would have to be rebuilt from the ground up for the next version of Windows Phone."

However, for Windows Phone 7, the BBC would have to build from the ground-up an app to handle that technology, costing them more than they evidently can spare. Here the phrase “return on investment” probably rings true especially with the low marketshare of Windows Phone in comparison to Android and iOS.

Another problem is the just announced Windows Phone 8, which changes things again for developers and would cause any Windows Phone 7 app to have to be “re-built” for the new system. The idea that Windows Phone 7 development would slowdown for some major companies in anticipation of Windows Phone 8 appears to be a valid concern after all.

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Finally, the matter of web-streaming is also brought up with blame being put right into Microsoft’s lap for an alleged browser bug:

“...today there's a bug in Windows Phone that prevents our standards-based media from being played on those devices. Microsoft has been aware of the bug for over a year now, and we're hopeful they'll address it (on Windows Phone 7 as well as Windows Phone 8) so our Windows Phone audiences can access iPlayer.”

It seems clear from the email that BBC would be open to supporting Windows Phone if the conditions were more apt and inviting for them to do so. But with the phasing out of Windows Phone 7 over the next few months, the uncertainty of Windows Phone 8 and what is evidently an issue with Internet Explorer preventing web-based streaming, the chances of a BBC iPlayer coming in the near future looks slim.

Danker does close out the email with a bit of hope for users though:

“As you can see, there's no easy answer. I'm optimistic that one or both of the options above will become possible in Windows Phone 8, but that's little help to people like you who are using Windows Phone 7. Nonetheless, hopefully this additional detail helps you understand our thought process.”

Indeed it does. Once again, all eyes are on Windows Phone 8 to change things for developers and consumers, bringing them the content they want and deserve.

Until then, users will have to use the upcoming BBC Radio Player Pro from Igneous Software as detailed in our earlier hands-on coverage.

Thanks, Paul A., for sending us the email