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BBC "Not In Bed With Bill Gates" 335

Posted by kdawson
from the nobody-uses-linux-anyway dept.
whoever57 writes "The BBC's head of technology denied rumors that a secret deal with Microsoft was behind the XP-only launch of the BBC's iPlayer. According to Ashley Highfield, the reason that the player only supports Windows XP is that only a small number of Linux visitors have come to the BBC's website. Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear. He also thinks that 'Launching a software service to every platform simultaneously would have been launch suicide,' despite the example of many major sites that support Linux (even if this is through the closed-source flash player)."
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BBC "Not In Bed With Bill Gates"

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  • Lame reason. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:19AM (#21195383) Homepage
    Why is 'a small number of linux users' a reason for going with this? What is wrong with using a format that is available everywhere (including portable players!) as a matter of course?
  • by 26199 (577806) * on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:21AM (#21195413) Homepage

    400-600 people on Linux use bbc.co.uk (in the UK)? I don't think so...

    Someone needs to recheck their server logs.

  • Perfect example (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:26AM (#21195473)
    So management knows more about tech than the techs do?

    Launching with a java or flash player would have been suicide?

    Is the man a complete and utter idiot?

    What can be done to force him getting fored for being incompetent so we can try and find someone that is not stupid?

    These are questions that all of us want answered.
  • Chicken and egg (Score:2, Insightful)

    by darjen (879890) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:26AM (#21195481)

    Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear.
    My guess is that they checked their logs before they created the application, and decided that the small portion of linux users on their site didn't justify the extra development costs of multi platform support. Of course, I didn't RTFA so I could be wrong on that.
  • by JetScootr (319545) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:28AM (#21195511) Journal
    "You don't decide how big to build the bridge by counting the number of people swimming the river."
    Cuz once the bridge is up, hundreds more who couldn't swim the distance will want to cross.
  • by Nomen Publicus (1150725) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:33AM (#21195593)
    The Beeb did it because it was the cheapest, easiest, but not best, option.

    That said, it was a really stupid move and managed to get everybody from the smallest Linux hacker to the UK government commenting in public about the policy.

    Creating an open "player" for all platforms would have taken more resources at first, but from that point on all future platforms would be supported by the people who use the platform.

    Sadly, the Beeb needs closed source to implement the no-save and timed delete features forced on them by others.
  • Love the summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by toleraen (831634) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:34AM (#21195609)

    Why he would expect a large number of Linux-based visitors to the site when the media downloads are Windows XP only is not clear.
    Hey Fudmitter, he's not talking about the media site, he's talking about news.bbc.co.uk. Still that seems a little low. We should have upped those numbers for him and linked his site directly in the summary...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:39AM (#21195669)
    400-600 people visited the beeb website and found it only supported XP/IE/Firefox.
    They subsequently began spoofing their User agent reply.
  • by Skiron (735617) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:49AM (#21195797) Homepage
    Bollocks... the licence money I pay FUNDS the BBC, which they are using to pay MS to produce a locked-in player that deliberately stops my using it as I do not use MS products.

    This sounds like racketeering, to me.
  • why a player? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:49AM (#21195803)
    This is 2007, they don't need a "player", that's already out there in a huge fashion, all they needed was to pick an open format, then let folks use whichever player they want. This was an artificial decision based on a "problem" that doesn't exist and that didn't need to happen.
  • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:50AM (#21195817)
    Executive summary: "Management ineptitude with statistics, not conspiracy, behind stupid BBC move."
  • Re:Lame reason. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by philicorda (544449) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:52AM (#21195835)
    You have this in reverse.
    Making the videos only work in Windows specific media players is more effort than using a common freely available codec.

    At an extreme, having a single page with links to the videos in mpeg format would have taken one person a day to set up.

    They may have their reasons, but technically the simplest solution is often... the simplest one.
  • What a moron (Score:1, Insightful)

    by mikeb (6025) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:55AM (#21195897) Homepage
    The really *scary* thing about this is that the BBC's HEAD OF TECHNOLOGY is still trotting out the bullshit line that this is about Linux users. It is not and never was. It's about a body that is publicly funded from MY F****NG TAXES, with a statutory duty to serve the whole UK population, choosing to use proprietary and encumbered technology. If he's too stupid to understand that he should resign.

    It is not about Linux. It is not about Linux. It is not about Linux.

    It's about ensuring that there is a free, open and competitive market in producing players. What annoys me is not that there is no Linux player, but that NOBODY CAN CREATE ONE from the specifications (since there aren't any).

    With idiots like this in charge at the Beeb, there's no hope.
  • Re:BBC's charter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:58AM (#21195927)

    The interesting bit here is the Beeb isn't really a commercial organization. They're a public entity which is strictly required [wikipedia.org] to keep itself free of commercial and political influence.

    They're also required to account for their spending and for keeping costs down. If they proposed a completely open player and it was a significant amount of money more than the Microsoft one then they would have to justify why they went with the costly option.

    Granted I've not worked in a non-profit organisation, but even so, I think that justifying a larger spend on something that affects less than 0.004% of visitors is going to be a very tough sell for anyone.

  • by Perl-Pusher (555592) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @08:59AM (#21195941)
    He is throwing numbers out doesn't know what the hell he is talking about. Linux visitors to the BBC site has to be a hell of a lot higher than that. 400 to 600 hundred linux users? I got more than that when I was was working for a local Virginia newspaper! We had over 100,000 visits per day, linux users were running steady at about 2%. The problem with linux users was you never knew which browser they were going to use, opera, firefox, konqueror even EI running under wine.
  • by kebes (861706) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @09:00AM (#21195951) Journal

    Shall we build a Windows, Mac or Linux player? No-brainer, really, when the P2P distribution layer is Windows only.
    Sure... but isn't that backwards?

    Generally you shouldn't pick your technology (programming language, toolkit, etc.) and then pick your audience based on what it supports. Instead, you should write out a list of requirements, and then pick the technology that satisfies all those needs. In this case, if one of the requirements was: "Must be available to all fee-paying persons with computer access (i.e.: must be platform agnostic)" then an OS-specific technology would never have been chosen in the first place.

    I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume that this is a result of mis-management (e.g. not thinking very hard about requirements) rather than corruption (e.g. collusion with software companies), but in any case I question their planning process.

    (And to those who may respond that "must support DRM" was one of the requirements in the initial design, and could only be satisfied using Windows-only software, I would then say that placing content protection above equal treatment of fee-paying users was, again, a poor design decision for an organization like the BBC.)
  • Re:Lame reason. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2007 @09:15AM (#21196163)
    Or...... you cater to your audience. I don't see the problem with any of this. I STILL haven't coded my website to be compliant with Konqueror or Safari. That's not to say they don't work in either, I just don't care because the ratio of Windows and IE+Firefox to Safari+Konqueror+every_other_OS_specific_browser_ever is something like 100:1.

    The demographic on /. might include every weird browser out there (I'm looking at you Opera.) Slashdot is not "the norm" by any means. I run MANY websites with very comprehensive statistics to verify my claims.

    BY THE WAY I'm aware that this is due to a proprietary and closed source player, hence the issue. It's not like you can't:
    A) Get your news elsewhere
    -or
    B) READ, instead of watch video.
  • by Bushcat (615449) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @09:20AM (#21196239)
    I guess it went something like this. And it hurts the Linux & Mac fanboys, but it is the shape of the world: BBC: "We want to get our stuff out to people. People mock us, but we actually do a pretty good job most of the time, content-wise and technology-wise. We want our subscribers to have access to our content." Verisign: "We can help you with that." BBC: "OK, please help us, but at minimal cost to our subscribers, because we have to fight for every pound." Verisign: "Here's the solution with the DRM you require, and the distributed platform you need to minimize your costs." BBC: "That works for us. We'll go for it. It's a shame it's Windows only, but we're realists." And that's it. In the real world, it's Windows. Second step would be a Mac iPlayer. In context, Linux is a luxury item. Beeb got it right. (And I'm a Linux user, but I'm not a blind Linux user)
  • by ddrichardson (869910) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @09:20AM (#21196245) Homepage

    The main reason why iPlayer uses Windows DRM is because the companies who produce content for the BBC didn't want their shows streamed without some kind of rights management, because, god forbid, it should end up on bit torrent.

    That would be a fair argument, except that a large proportion of contents is produced by the BBC at the expense of licence payers, who should be able to access the information they are paying for regardless of operating system. In essence, one could argue that as a licence payer it's our content.

  • Re:Lame reason. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by argiedot (1035754) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @09:32AM (#21196385) Homepage
    They pay, you see. So once they pay, you can't go telling them 'READ!'. It won't work. Besides, what's wrong with opposing a proprietary closed-source player on principle itself?
  • Re:What a moron (Score:2, Insightful)

    by EvilMole (453268) * on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:04AM (#21196931) Homepage
    ..."with a statutory duty to serve the whole UK population..."

    I look forward to you campaigning to get the BBC to broadcast all its DAB channels on analog radio, as they're not fufilling their statutory duty to serve the whole UK population blah blah blah...

    The fact is that you CHOOSE to use a minority platform. That means you're not going to be first in the queue when it comes to getting new services from the BBC. You'll get them eventually, unless the marginal cost of providing them is too high - just as there's people in the UK who can't get digital TV (and won't get it for years).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:05AM (#21196959)
    How can the core code behind the iPlayer be cross platform when it based on the windows only Kontiki P2P software and for playing windows DRM? What have New Media guidelines got to do with an *application* that plays windows media and upload/downloads files using a windows only p2p sharing system? Do you think we are discussing the streaming system the BBC came up with to placate the BBC trust and get them off their case for 6 months?

    There are no excuses for the use of Microsoft only technology in this. If they couldn't persuade a maker of a show to allow it to be on iPlayer sans DRM then the show should be not be available on iPlayer. Simple as that. Everyone except the BBC sees the fixed-platform nature of the iPlayer to be a violation of the BBC's charter. And it is very suspicious that we were promised a cross-platform iPlayer which suddenly got taken away at the same time the BBC clearly started to have much closer ties with Microsoft.

    The government should scrap the charter and force the BBC to go commercial. The BBC is behaving like a commercial organisation these days anyway so it might as well do it properly.

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:09AM (#21197019) Journal
    If it is not cost effective to support those 6%, then yes, they should. Tell me, should they spend the same amount on 6% of their customers as they did on the other 94%?

    Let me put it in a way that your little mind can grasp: If it cost 1 million to implement iPlayer for each platform, then it would cost:
    1. The cost per Windows user is 0.06
    2. The cost per Mac user is 1.17
    3. The cost per Linux user is 1,166


    And, companies often do not do what 6% of their shareholders. I think you have forgotten that shareholders vote on many things and it is majority rule. If a vote is 49%/51%, then the 49% lose and the policy of the other 51% gets implemented.

    What makes you think you and your choice of operating system is more important and deserves a bigger share of the money and resources than the other 95% of the population? What makes you think you are worth 19,400 times than 95% of the rest of the population?

    Do you see the depths of your selfishness yet?

    More importantly, if you had RTFA, you would have seen where they decided to support the majority of their visitors first and then add support for the rest later.

    Now, stop being a self-centered asshole.
  • Re:Lame reason. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Draek (916851) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:16PM (#21199065)

    They are managers not geeks. They worry about one thing...the bottom line.

    except that the BBC is legally mandated to worry about more than just "the bottom line". Hence why people are making such a big deal out of this, whereas when some US-based TV stations do it it's just regarded as "common corporate stupidity".

  • Re:Lame reason. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RobertM1968 (951074) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:22PM (#21199199) Homepage Journal

    You have this in reverse. Making the videos only work in Windows specific media players is more effort than using a common freely available codec....

    You are both right and wrong. If *I* develop a web page, I purchase and use tools that are platform and browser agnostic. Then again, I work for a company I co-own. So for me, it would be more difficult to make a platform or browser specific video feed/system or website (well, perhaps not website... IE is still a nightmare to code any decent site to, since how it handles things varies per version and occassionally per update).

    If I work for Company A, I'm stuck using the tools my IT Department licensed for our company (most decent sized companies will mandate certain tools or software - among other things, it helps ensure license compliance for every package used). If Company A's Idiot Technology Department (face it, many IT guys in a big company's IT departments are technological idiots who base purchasing decisions off the latest and greatest ad or brochure; with no understanding of the underlying technology or later implications based on their choice - and many of the good ones - because there are plenty of good ones - are limited to what their meddling upper management decides for them*), then I am stuck with using tools that may be geared for a _______ only solution.

    Thus, without knowing more about the BBC's internal decisions when they purchased whatever video handling/processing tools, web tools, etc; speculation is a moot point - and their answers, as lame as they are (considering making a cross platform video delivery system is easy in principle) could entirely (or mostly) be to downplay the fact that they do not have an infrastructure set up to make a cross platform system due to the software/server/etc choices they made earlier.

    The bigger the company (or less cash they have, or smaller IT/deployment team they have) the less likely they will be spending money switching the stuff they already bought with new stuff [it costs more money (since they are buying a 2nd package to do the "same" thing as the first), or even if it's open source they choose for round two, it's more money in deployment, training and support learning].

    And of course, (wrongly) Open Source solutions scare most large companies who don't understand the (lack of) implications running Open Source software has (feeling they will have a lack of control/ownership over the finished product).

    In a perfect (IT) world, where every IT manager knows what they are doing (or is unhindered by upper management forcing decisions on them), and corporate buying decisions are done keeping in mind that the web is supposed to be open access, you are correct. We just dont yet live in that perfect world.

    -Robert

    .

    * At CompUSA, some idiot in upper management decided to use Siebel for their entire sales and service management system. The IT gang got stuck dealing with the consequences of a decision they became stuck with - meaning almost a decade after roll-out, the system still doesnt work properly, quickly or with all the features that were intended - and of course it limits all development to Windows, through IE or Excel or Access (etc). No Firefox, no MySQL/Oracle/whatever.

  • Re:Bill Gates (Score:2, Insightful)

    by VGPowerlord (621254) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:46PM (#21199525)
    I'm sure Bill Gates' wife will be happy to hear this news. :P

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