BBC get with the times

BBC LogoThe Beeb announced yesterday a couple of new services they’ll be offering before the end of the year. Firstly, and the one which has got the most publicity is that the BBC websites will be available free via The Cloud wifi hotspots. The Cloud have had quite a bit of publicity recently – first a partnership with O2 to provide access to iPhone users and then one with McDonald’s to provide free wifi access in their restaurants.

There have been the usual mumblings about anti-competitive behaviour and the dominant position that the BBC’s online services have in the market but I’m not so interested in that – I’m more interested in the proliferation of wifi access. With the iPhone due to launch in the UK next month, the majority of students coming to university with a laptop and a wider awareness of wireless networks, there is potential do do a bit more in this area.

If iPhone users are going to be actively looking for wifi connections, why not give them one? Why not open up our wireless network to offer easy access to content for visitors to the campus? When we host conferences we could publish the programme via wifi. During open days we could give access to campus maps and guides. The rest of the time staff and students could get access to GO and other services without the need to log in to the hotspot.

The other announcement was more interesting to me:

The broadcaster has signed a deal with Adobe to provide Flash video for the whole of the BBC’s video services, including a streaming version of its iPlayer.

Finally after 10 years of RealAudio/Video and many years of Windows Media Audio/Video have they decided to adopt the one system that has proven itself to be stable across multiple platforms while offering high quality at relatively low bandwidths. Many people’s opinion of Flash video is tainted by the poor quality (in every sense) YouTube experience but it’s actually a very good format and if you’re not being stingy with bandwidth, quality is very good. An update to to Flash Version 9 including H.264 support will boost this even further.

Some have said that the BBC has been slow to adopt new technologies and adapt to all this new fangled Web 2.0 lark but these announcements show that maybe Auntie has just woken up from her afternoon nap…

8 thoughts on “BBC get with the times

  1. If iPhone users are going to be actively looking for wifi connections, why not give them one? Why not open up our wireless network to offer easy access to content for visitors to the campus?

    Wash your mouth out! 😉

    If only everyone had such a groovy attitude to wifi the world would be a much nicer place. The lack of public wifi spots has been the main stumbling block in my Adventures with Wifi. I have recently signed up to the FON Network, members of which pledge to offer free wifi to other members. If we want people to use our web services we need to make it easy for them to use them, and offer them in the way that users want to access them. With the use of Wifi on mobile phones becoming more and more popular we will soon have to provide public wifi access,if we don’t users will only go elsewhere for the same services.

  2. The BT/FON joint venture will be interesting to follow and I’ve been meaning to sign up myself. Coverage maps seem pretty good in cities but it’s still to reach out here to any significant level.

  3. True, but from tiny acorns etc etc

    It will take a while for people to catch onto this, I think the catalyst for the wider user of public wifi will be when iPhone (and similar) users can’t access the services they want to. We also need to adopt a groovier attitude to sharing wifi, there’s no point in offering wifi if users can’t access it.

  4. Check out Bob X Cringely’s original suggestion way back in January 2004 – it bares more than a passing resemblance to FON!

    Om Malik was also complaining recently that even logging into hotspots is a problem and he’s got a point – I very rarely want to pay for access to a hotspot but I sometimes try to connect to see the tariffs and what extra information is available. Half the time the supposedly open hotspot won’t allow my HTC s700 to connect and when they do the interface is so horrendous.

    Edge Hill is no exception with scrolling being necessary to even see the login box. It’s not difficult to serve different content to different browsers, and it’s even possible with a bit of CSS to make a single page degrade well to smaller screens. I wonder if we have access to the templates on our APs…?

  5. Hi Amanda,

    I’ve logged into the AP at Coronation Park and it works really well. Now you just need to get one installed into the Clock Tower so I can sit in Costa and check my email!

  6. Hi Mike

    Thanks for your positive feedback. I will e-mail Costa with your comments. By the way, if you are sitting in the cafe area of Park Pool you can get a connection there too (and in your car at Morrisons car park as the signal goes quite far)!

    Amanda 🙂

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