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…