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BBC Mobile Apps: a demo

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David Madden | 12:20 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Today at Mobile World Congress, Erik Huggers, Director of BBC Future Media & Technology, announced a series of BBC mobile apps.

Our aim is to develop core public service apps that bring some of the BBC's most popular and distinctive content to mobile in a genuinely user-friendly and accessible way.

Mobile apps offer us a great opportunity to extend the reach of BBC Online to people on the move. As more and more of us come to rely on the mobile internet for up to the minute information, the BBC needs to offer its existing web services in a more mobile friendly format to ensure we keep delivering value to the licence fee payer.

In designing these apps we haven't created any new content or developed any new services. It's just the same BBC Online content repurposed to provide a better experience on a mobile phone.

According to M:Metrics, the BBC mobile site is currently the second most popular UK destination on the mobile internet, attracting more than six million visitors a month. As mobile phones become more powerful and connectivity more accessible, mobile has become an increasingly important outlet for the BBC.

So, a little bit more about the apps themselves.

BBC News

The BBC News app is all about the latest BBC news and analysis at your fingertips. The app will have the same distinctive content as the BBC News website with full stories, features and analysis, in pictures, audio and video, plus correspondent blogs and live streaming of the BBC News Channel. We've also developed a neat way for you to personalise the news.

We've put together a demo of the News app to show you what it looks like and how it works. Please bear in mind that this is an early version and the final app will be tweaked and improved as we refine the design.

Click with your mouse, or use the right cursor arrow on your keyboard to move through the screens.

The main screen uses a carousel structure so you can quickly catch up on the news by sliding each row sideways to skim through the latest stories. You can also personalise the experience by reordering the rows to put your favourite news section at the top. So, if you like technology news, like I do, then you can easily move that section to the top.

You can read full stories by clicking on any thumbnail. Stories include embedded video along with options to share stories with your friends and send your pictures and video straight to the newsroom from your phone.

We have also developed a neat landscape view which lets you scan through the headlines when you turn your phone sideways. The idea is to provide a handy way to flick through the latest news without having to jump in and out of each story.

The BBC News app will be released in April and more features will be added throughout the year. You can find out how this will fit into the BBC News offering by reading Pete Clifton over in BBC News blog.

BBC Sport

The BBC Sport app is all about the live match experience. One of the most popular sections of the BBC mobile site is football scores which generates millions of page impressions on a match Saturday. We want to build on this success by developing an app that puts the BBC's live football coverage in the palm of your hand.

The app will be released in time for the World Cup with Live, competitions, News, and Audio and Video sections. We will add further sports to the app, such as Formula 1, later in the year. Brett Spencer 5 live's interactive editor talks a bit more about the app and 5 live content on mobile on the 5live blog.

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer has been available on mobile for nearly 2 years and has proved very popular. We're looking at the possibilities around BBC iPlayer apps that would offer an enhanced experience with richer interactions and some new features.

Variants of each app would be developed to ensure they are properly optimised for different mobile platforms.

In other news:

  • Mobile IQ are designing and developing the first variant of the BBC News and BBC Sports apps in the Apple SDK.
  • For the BBC iPlayer apps we're looking at using Adobe Flash Player 10.1 streaming, and are trialling on the Google Nexus One and Motorola Milestone. Flash 10.1 streaming offers a high quality viewing experience and means we can start using the BBC's flash based embedded media player (EMP) on mobile phones.

It's an exciting time for the BBC's mobile team, and I'll blog more about this in the coming months.

David Madden is Executive Product Manager in the BBC Future Media and Technology Mobile team with responsibility for BBC iPlayer on mobile and mobile apps.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Excellent news, especially looking forward to the sport/FI app.

  • Comment number 2.

    I've posted some thoughts about this on my blog (I'm sure you've never heard that before).

    I'd be interested to know (beyond DRM concerns for video and audio, which shouldn't matter for news and sport) why the BBC hasn't chosen the more platform-agnostic approach that HTML5 offers for mobile development.

  • Comment number 3.

    Why choose the iphone for the first apps rather than a more open platform?

  • Comment number 4.

    I think it's a great idea, however I'd like to see some reassurances that it's not just the "walled-garden" iPhone that will be supported. Other device platforms (most notably Android) should be supported as well!

  • Comment number 5.

    Great, so those with mobile devices are now getting a better interactive service than those who pay for the BBC and want to watch vis it's prime broadcast medium - DVB-T - money would have been better spent on getting the full BBCi (back) onto the DVB-T platform before worrying about those such (fashion accessory) mobile devices...

  • Comment number 6.

    Excellent News! I've been waiting for this official announcement for months.

  • Comment number 7.

    Disappointed that you have gone for the trendy option of a iphone app. Android and Symbian are more popular platforms but again the free advertising goes to Apple.

    Why?

  • Comment number 8.

    This all sounds strangely familiar, we had the iPlayer that wouldn't work on Linux, and now we have apps that will only work for iPhone users.

    I'd like to add a me too for Android versions of these apps please!

  • Comment number 9.

    I look forward to these iPhone apps being available - currently I have the iPlayer site as a standalone web app but would welcome a proper full blown download app. The News and Sport apps also sound excellent - hopefully the Sport will mean no excuse for missing any World Cup action (provided they allow streaming over 3G of course!,).

  • Comment number 10.

    Please make the iplayer support 50 fps

  • Comment number 11.

    I love iPhone apps (I have about 60 currently installed, and have probably spent close to £100 in the app store in the past 18 months), but on this occasion I must agree with #2 Rolphus.

    Everything the demo shows can be achieved pretty faithfully in HTML5. That, combined with a couple of different video codecs, would give everyone a nice experience on a range of devices -- iPhone, Android, Palm Pre, etc -- and probably for less development time.

    Perhaps more importantly, building this in HTML5 would open up your source code to other developers. A few years ago I read a BBC technology blog where the BBC described themselves as the "Nation's R&D hub". It's a lovely idea, but it only works if you're open.

    By all means open source your iPhone apps (unlikely?) but I suspect most of us would find a good, cross platform HTML5 site with bleeding edge functionality a better learning tool. And, in my humble opinion, it's a better use of the BBC's time.

  • Comment number 12.

    David:

    Excellent news....

  • Comment number 13.

    Grant (#11) HTML5 your having a laugh. for three good reasons D, R, and M. There is no DRM in HTML5 so no films or TV.

  • Comment number 14.

    I don't see the point in making an application unless it does something the web can't. I think current craze for making an "app for that" will soon pass and that Google have the right idea, by telling users they can "install" an application when in reality they are simply creating a shortcut. I made the mistake of buying the Guardian app, and have since deleted it, because it just used up screen space, and offers the same service as the web site (only without a unified bookmarking system).

    What would be nice (and would require an app) would be an iPlayer application that enables me to download shows for offline viewing. Yes there's the issue of DRM, but Audible.co.uk manages to get their audio-books onto iPhones with DRM intact, so I'm wondering why the Beeb can't?

    Still, I will check the apps out and hope t be proven wrong but please make an offline iPlayer!

  • Comment number 15.

    The approach of creating different applications for different operating systems is complex, wasteful, and quite frankly, stupid. It smacks of vanity informing decision making - "we need to make an app!".

    There is already an application which allows me to access BBC content on my phone on the move, it's called a browser. I would hope you had heard of it, but apparently you seem to be under the impression that I would like to install a BBC News app, a BBC Sport app, and an iPlayer app on my phone. So I can only assume that you haven't.

    Here's the smart, simple, and straightforward way to work on getting BBC content available easier to mobile users - improve the website. If you want to get flashy, and give Erik Huggers something to go to MWC to talk about, then get build relationships with W3C and the mobile operating system developers to make sure that the site runs as well as possible on the browsers and operating systems.

    Alternatively, if the browser is not an acceptable delivery system, I'd like to know when you will be launching desktop BBC News, BBC Sports and iPlayer apps?

  • Comment number 16.

    Will someone tell me about the cost of these applications to the user in data charges and battery life and of course of the device.
    Matts comment is interesting.... what is the economics of the different approaches.

  • Comment number 17.

    Well said MattWPBS (#15)!

  • Comment number 18.

    "I don't see the point in making an application unless it does something the web can't."

    Such as load over a mobile data connection in a terrible reception area in less than fifteen minutes?

    A dedicated app doesn't have to fetch graphics or layout tables, and hence loads much, much quicker. Given the UK's 3G networks are literally coming apart at the seams due to lack of bandwidth, or the fact that in any sports stadium in the UK during an event you will be very lucky to get a connection running at the equivalent of 5k a second, that is invaluable, and it is bluntly why so many people use applications that just pull in browser accessible content on the iPhone (Sky Sports result app has had HUGE download numbers, for exactly this reason).

    Phazer

  • Comment number 19.

    @Guv-nor (#13) - sorry to burst your bubble here, but the current iPlayer output isn't encrypted. On various platforms it uses standard h264 (mp4) video which can be downloaded, stored and played locally.

    And secondly, there's no DRM in HTML5 because there's no VIDEO in HTML5. It's a markup language, and different devices will continue to use their own video codecs, some with DRM, some without.

    If the current BBC iPlayer isn't DRM restricted, why should the iPhone version be?

  • Comment number 20.

    The Phazer: While I agree with what you're saying in terms of "traditional" (i.e desktop-focused, old-technology) websites, HTML5 local storage allows all the layout (even the table markup etc) to be cached on the device, and simple Javascript queries to return JSON objects (which are pretty bandwidth-efficient).

    The "first-run" bandwidth usage would be higher than normal as graphics and stylesheets are downloaded, but this is no worse than installing an app. Once the data is cached locally (either explicitly through HTML5 local storage or implicitly through a browser's standard cache), updates should be almost no slower than a dedicated application. The page can even be used completely offline and "synchronise" when a connection is available.

  • Comment number 21.

    @ Michael #8
    "I'd like to add a me too for Android versions of these apps please!"
    did you see :
    "The news and sport applications will initially be made on iPhone and will follow on Blackberry and Android platforms"


  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    I hope that this means that I can also listen to BBC radio (1, 2, 3, etc) as well as the world service on my ipod touch via the internet. I can't do that at the moment because ipod doesn't support Flash. In order to listen to BBC radio (here in Canada at the moment) I have to boot up my laptop computer. The comments already made in this blog are somewhat over my head. All I see is what I see on my ipod toy.

    Apparently the UK newspapers are unhappy about the BBC's proposals. I support the BBC 100%. Newspapers are dead. Quote me on this.

    PS. In the pre-internet days of long, long ago, during my travels around the world, the BBC World Service on short wave was one of the things that kept my in touch with the motherland and provided a balanced view of the world in countries where news is somewhat biased, to say the least. Don't let the BBC be prevented from carrying out one of its most important (in my opinion) roles- broadcasting to the world. BTW, does the BBC still broadcast on short wave? Must dig out the SW radio and give it a try sometime.

  • Comment number 24.

    Personally, I'm really happy you are making this step. As an iPhone owner, an App to access BBC News is one App I've really been hoping for since I got the phone.

    I currently use both Sky News and Guardian to access news content on the phone, but if I'm online BBC News is my first choice, and I suspect it will be on my iPhone too.

    I see there are attempts going sky high to block this. I would just say to those trying to block it that this is, at the end of the day, about choice. The BBC content is excellent, that is why people seek it out. If the commercial organisations feel trampled, the option is to raise their game so people choose them instead. No-one is forcing anyone to download and read their news on the BBC App, but not providing it is depriving people of that choice.

    As for HTML5 etc - you're missing the point of Apps. People want apps to collate material into one place. HTML5 may indeed be able to provide some - though I think not all - of services Apps provide via web apps, but I don't want to go through safari every time to get there.

    In short, good job BBC, please do this, your public wants it.

  • Comment number 25.

    I am a Licence Payer and along with 10% of Smartphone owners I have a Windows Mobile phone (HTC Touch Diamond 2 - a very good phone which suits me well).

    There does not seem to be any plans to provide me with iPlayer access. Do I get a reduction in my Licence fee or do I just "lump it"?

  • Comment number 26.

    I am still against the BBC spending time and my money developing software. They are a broadcaster and should focus on making programs. The distribution of the programs, be it video or sound or text/news, should be handled by other commercial companies who can aggregate the BBC along with other news outlets. I would even go as far as saying the licence fee should be reduced and a micropayment system introduced, paying whatever news organisation I chose, or even payments direct to whichever journalist I decide to read.

    For sure I want people journalism, that is the ability to make comments in a common way, along themed lines, on any article I read.

    When I soon have my iPad, and I will buy one, I look forward to having apps for Music, News, Books, Movies, TV etc bringing together all suppliers. Not individual apps for each supplier. which is a crazy, anti-customer concept. We do not buy into brands, we buy into news.

  • Comment number 27.

    A reply to "Trevora": you can listen to BBC radio on the iPod, I use an app called FStream. It works just fine.

  • Comment number 28.

    Aargh instead of making this a kick a*s product (I have 340 maps from bicycling on Nokia Sports Tracker which NST calls "workouts", ha my bicycling is not a workout!), Nokia is spinning out Sports Tracker into a separate company called Sports Tracking Technologies. I totally disagree with this decision. Instead I recommend (I know it's too late) that Nokia fix the web app (e.g. fix the horrific URLs, make it more social by tweeting your workouts, etc) and bundle the mobile app with all Nokia devices with GPSes. Perhaps Sports Tracking Technologies can give Nokia an exclusive license? Online Sports News

  • Comment number 29.

    Thumbs up for the iPhone app, those organisations that are complaining really need to get with the times! The music industry got caught out as well all know, and now they are "struggling" to compete - newspapers will go the same way unless they evolve from 20th century to 21st century technology.

    Survival of the fittest?

  • Comment number 30.

    Anyone using Windows Mobile can download a free program called "MyPlayer" that will allow you to watch iPlayer streams through any supported streaming video player (such as Coreplayer).

  • Comment number 31.

    yay..a little gift from the bbc...looking foward to these apps...the bbc really know what there doing when it comes to these things...the iplayer is a marvel..somehow i always feel like they shouldn't be this good..im actually quite confident that the apps here will be georgeous to use and be a great experience

  • Comment number 32.

    Will Windows Phone 7 Series have an app before launch or are the BBC focusing on the iPhone, Android and Blackberry OS?

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    Why do the BBC think that everyone has an iPhone? The iPhone is an entertainment device and the the News app will not be used as much as it would on a Blackberry, Pre or Android device. The only thing that would be used more on the iPhone would be the BBCi Player which will need flash...which is being released on the Palm Pre before any other device is it not, from what i read? The i Player app would need to be run on a device that has a very good battery, not many smartphones have that nor does the iPhone.

    As we all pay our license fee the app should be made for ALL devices.

  • Comment number 35.

    The BBC leaders' debate last night showed why the BBC is more than worth the license fee, being head and shoulders above the other two in both production and presentation. This is why the BBC is pretty much the only channel I watch in 'real time' now, choosing to consume the rest of my media by downloading or on-demand.

    However, the BBC really need to get to market quicker with technology apps and iPhone/iPad in particular. What ever you say about the competing products, Apple is the market leader and the BBC need to be more reactive in delivering iPhone apps (and Mac apps for that matter, Mac laptop sales are going up while Windows ones are going down.) It's ridiculous that the BBC do not have a News/Election app and I am forced to use Sky's one. Sitting at my PC, I have the election live page open all the time in the background. Similarly, that iPlayer works for streaming on the iPhone now is great but we also need to be able to carry that content around with us, so downloads and a dedicated app are required.

    As for Flash, forget it. Apple has won that battle. Seriously, it'll take a long time to come but flash is dead. YouTube have learnt, Hulu and others are going the same way. It's not viable, with so many iPhones out there and, soon to be, so many iPads, that you do not provide your media to those consumers. Those people will just go elsewhere. There are lots of reasons not to like Flash but I have no strong opinions one way or the other. What I do care about is having an iPhone and any visit on a London tube will show that they are prevalent. Therefore you have to find some way of getting your media onto these devices or risk losing eyeballs to Sky and the rest (which would be a shame as the BBC News is THE news channel, worldwide.)

  • Comment number 36.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    Why choose the iphone for the first apps rather than a more open platform?

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    Was surprised to see the 2:1 gender skew, especially considering that the stats on Apple products in general are pretty balanced between men and women.

    Is this because men generally have higher incomes, i.e. more purchasing power for luxury items? Let’s face it, at this point the ipad is a luxury item – i.e. no one’s getting this to REPLACE their computer. Or at least not yet.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

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  • Comment number 44.

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  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    At the time of posting, has this experimentation with flash player 10.1 begun in earnest? I note that since June 20th 2010, Blackberry Bold 9700 have been struggling to stream the iplayer content.

  • Comment number 47.

    I think it's great that the BBC have produced this app. As a frequent visitor to the BBC website i find it frustrating that I cannot access all of the content on my iPhone and iPad.

    It's a shme there is a bug in the iPad version where the main stories panel on the right hand side goes green and you cannot access the new stories.

  • Comment number 48.

    As for people companying as to why have an iPhone version first. If int wasn't for the iPhone there would be no apps like this on any phone.

  • Comment number 49.

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  • Comment number 50.

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  • Comment number 54.

    Why this application does not function with other type mobile Blackbery?

  • Comment number 55.

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