CyberTech Rambler

October 16, 2007

BBC have the responsibility to provide Mac/Linux users the same functionality as Windows users (updated)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:38 pm

One BBC’s director is expressing doubt that it will offer the same functionality for Mac/Linux user for its iPlayer. Let me tell the BBC this: You have the responsibility to ensure that all users, including Mac/Linux users, have equal access. If you hope the the “crippled” flash-based player will suffice, I tell you now it is NOT even close to be acceptable. As a stop-gap measure? yes, permanent? NO.

Why do I pick on the BBC? One, BBC is a “public broadcast service” and should not discriminate between users of different operating systems. To do so is like not providing subtitles/audio description to disabled listeners. At present, I do not use these enhanced services. However, I am willing to pay for it as I can see the public service value.

Furthermore, imagine the uproar if the digital service is only available on one brand of digital set top box. Online services is no different from the set top box issue. Asking license fee player to use only Windows OS is like mandating users to use one brand of set top box.

It is of course, a “cost-per-person” issue. However, rather than penalize license fee payer, BBC should penalize programme maker who refuse to allow their programme to be used without Window-based DRM instead. After all, if BBC cannot, who else can? BBC recently made a deal with YouTube to allow its programme to be stored on YouTube. This, if any, shows that there is a workaround for Digital Restriction Management issue.

Ironically, if BBC had made it a paid-for service, I will not less objection as long as it is a ‘catch-up’ service. After all, having to pay for it turn it into an “add-on” service rather than “public boardcast service”. I still have problems with BBC offering a two tier service but requiring payment somehow reduce the discriminatory nature of the service. And if these payments actually help to improve the enjoyment of physically-challenged people, the less objection I will have.

[Update 20071016 BST 2212] Hopefully, BBC Trust’s will hold their line requiring “platform neutrality”. Their spokeperson’s definition of platform neutrality is more far reaching than I had expected, not only it covers operating system, it also covers set top box etc. A tall order, but one that I expect BBC to deliver.

Sign the petition here. Please note that there is another petition asking BBC to deliver iPlayer now, Mac and Linux later because people using Mac and Linux should not  stop Window people from enjoying iPlayer now. I would support it if BBC will give an acceptable timetable for on-par Linux/Max performance with Windows. Definitely NOT if BBC use this as an excuse to drop Mac and Linux player.

On the subject of DRM, BBC should had known that it is going to be an uphill struggle to get Microsoft to license its DRM technology on Linux (and perhaps Mac). Hence, if it find itself in this mess it is its own making. It is a risk that came back to bite it.  A wrong bet by BBC and it will have to correct now.

What we want is an on-par player. If Digital Restriction Management (DRM) is a problem, then reduce the functionality of the player to streaming only (no storing) is a solution.

The only proper way for DRM implementation for BBC is an open standard DRM which is free, i.e., royalty free for any one to use. BBC’s boffin should know that DRM is just an “emerging technology” with company jockeying for position. We will not see any open standard DRM implementation anytime soon.

Having said all these, if anyone can get Microsoft to license its DRM to Mac and Linux or to turn it into an open standard DRM, BBC can. ]

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