BBC must offer 'platform neutral' downloads

The iPlayer currently has 250,000 regular users

The BBC's bosses look to be coming down hard on the corporation after it said it would be providing a streaming version of the iPlayer download service. A spokesman for the BBC Trust told BBC News the body had approved the iPlayer on the basis of "platform neutrality" and that this covered the download service too.

The catch-up iPlayer currently makes it possible for Windows XP users to download programmes thanks to the 30 day time-out protection offered by Windows Media DRM technology.

Mac and Linux users

However, Microsoft can't provide this for Mac and Linux users, so yesterday the BBC announced it was partnering with Adobe to produce a non-download version which will stream programmes using Flash. The corporation said it will be making this available before the end of the year.

Yesterday the BBC's director of Future Media and Technology Ashley Highfield wouldn't commit on the subject. "We need to get the streaming service up and...then we need to look long and hard at whether we build a download service for Mac and Linux."

DRM technology

The BBC said a download service for the other platforms would be available, depending on take-up of the streaming service and the subsequent cost per user. But there seems to be a practical barrier as well in terms of the DRM technology that could be used. The spokesman for the BBC Trust told BBC News that the corporation's management should inform the Trust if it is "planning any changes to iPlayer".

Originally the BBC told the Trust it was hoping to provide the iPlayer for non-Windows users but couldn't commit to a time frame. The BBC Trust redefined this as a necessity within a "reasonable time frame". The original Windows launch provoked fury among the Mac and Linux communities as well as among bodies like the Open Source Consortium (OSC).

More than 250,000 people currently use the service regularly, a figure the BBC says it hopes to double by April.


Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.