The iPlayer makes my iLife slightly iBetter

Published December 23, 2007

My inaugural post as a somewhat techie blogger must be about the BBC iPlayer. I have been using it for about a week now and I’ve formed some initial impressions.

Firstly, confusion reigned supreme. Back when the iPlayer was announced, I quite obviously checked it out. Having TV accessible via the Internet is something I am keeping a close eye on, and I have strong views about the BBC as well. Mix the two together and you could end up with the perfect cocktail. However, the original iteration of the iPlayer was a closed Beta that I couldn’t get into. The second iteration saw me unable to participate due to Vista - yet another thing I have to punch Vista in the face for.

I was pointed in the direction of the new and improved iPlayer by a Mac user who was happy that it had suddenly become available on their operating system. I checked it out, and both they and I were surprised that I could suddenly use it.

My one bug-bear is that it requires Internet Explorer, but aside from that, it is a serious step in the right direction. Programmes are available pretty quickly after broadcast, I’ve spotted one only three hours after it was in the TV Guides. You can download them and they last for thirty days (although once you start to watch they expire after seven - beware watching until you are committed to see it through). They play in Windows Media Player, again slightly annoying, but you can see why the BBC would go with the percentages.

On a Mac, I believe they cannot be downloaded and play via Flash on the browser. Not perfect, but like I said earlier, a step in the right direction.

Today we were working on some podcast business, and I realised I needed to either go and watch a programme, or set my PVR to record. But then I thought about it. Neither of those options appealed to me because they would involve moving from my seat, traipsing into the cold, uninviting living room (gotta love the heater in the office) and finding the right remote control. Instead, I said, out loud: “It’s okay, I’ll catch it on the iPlayer later.” That is the kind of thing I want to be saying.

All in all, the iPlayer gets a half-hearted thumbs up from me. They are definitely thinking inside the right box, but I believe they have constraints that are making it slightly harder for them. Hopefully, the BBC will prevail, and others will follow suit.

On a side note, I want to say, I download the Scott Mills podcast from Radio 1. I’m not a huge fan of the show, but given a twenty minute podcast of the best bits, I can usually find something to have a laugh at. The iPlayer introduced me to a programme called Radio 1 on Three, which is basically Scott’s show on the TV. On the box, it transmits on BBC Three at about 1 o’clock in the morning and has cameras in the radio studio recording them as they do their links. It plays some of the more amusing ones, interspersed with music videos. They are mostly the same links as the podcast version gives me, though, so I am torn whether to listen to the audio, or watch the downloaded TV.

This, I feel, is a good dilemma to be in.

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