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BBC News on iPhone

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Pete Clifton Pete Clifton | 12:36 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Our Future Media boss Erik Huggers made it clear today that our BBC News and BBC Sport services will be the first official BBC apps to launch on the iPhone.

If you want to see a demo of the BBC News app, David Madden, exec product manager from our mobile team, can walk you through.

This is an exciting development for us and a natural progression after providing the best of our journalism - news, sport, weather, travel - on mobile devices for the past 10 years.

Our approach has always been simple: web equals mobile; mobile equals web. If we have made great content for our websites - with your licence fee money - then mobile is just another platform to make it available to you.

The rising audience numbers for our mobile content show that our users appreciate the service and expect to find it when they are on the move - or on the touchline, or on the sofa.

The applications unveiled by Erik will provide a slicker way to access our existing content on smartphones, with a real focus on the distinctive, original content we have on offer.

This includes breaking news from our journalists across the UK and the world, embedded video on our local, national and international text stories, the best of the blogs from our leading correspondents, easy access to news podcasts, and a permanent link to watch the BBC News channel live.

There'll be lots more, and you'll be able to personalise the service so that the content you are most interested in rises to the top.

We will be developing the service over the coming months, on the iPhone and then for the BlackBerry and Android devices later in the year, and we plan to have an iPhone application for Sport in time for the World Cup.

As ever, your feedback will be invaluable. And, of course, if you are not part of the "smartphone set", you can still find the content via your mobile browser at bbc.co.uk/mobile.

It will certainly be a relief to have an official BBC presence on iPhone instead of the distinctly patchy unofficial "BBC" applications that some of you may have encountered in the past couple of years.

You'll no doubt continue to enjoy accessing news on the move from a variety of sources on your mobile, and we hope that will include the BBC.

Pete Clifton is head of editorial development, multimedia at BBC News.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Sounds great.

    If i ever enter the 21st century i might give it a go.

  • Comment number 2.

    It's great that the BBC are realising that mobile access for licence fee payers is vital to keep people "on board" with the BBC's unique ethos.

    Unfortunately, it would appear that there is a lack of joined-up thinking within the BBC as, whilst the news app will be welcome, many are still unable to access iPlayer which has been around for a while now on their iPhone.

    From hushed comments in forums, the mobile operators keep pointing the finger of blame at the BBC as apparantly the mobile operators allocate the same IP range to a device whether it is in the UK or if it's roaming abroad.

    The answer to this has been to block the entire IP range of the mobile provider from being allowed to access the iPlayer service. This is really using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

    With proper consultations between the BBC and the mobile network providers this issue could be resolved and roaming phones allocated a certain IP address range which could be blocked.

    However, it's surely less of an issue than the increasing numbers of ex-pats and bars abroad using large satellite dishes onto the Astra satellites and watching the BBC programming via digital satellite TV.

    As a percentage of users and as a total number of users, this probably creates a bigger licecing issue than does persons travelling abroad accessing BBC iPlayer on their mobile phone.

    This then leads us to the question as to why would the BBC block iPlayer on a mobile phone and not cease transmitting on the Astra platform - surely it should be one rule for all?

    The only answer I can find to this is that the iPlayer platform has a smaller user-base and as such, the BBC feels they can get away with blocking this in an arbitrary way without any come back from the licence payers. This is not true and, as a licence payer, I feel that access to content should be made completely fair across the board.

    If the BBC is not going to block transmissions on the Astra satellites, which supply BBC to all Sky Digital customers in the UK - then they should also not block access to iPlayer users on mobile phones.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ah, a distinctly iPhone touch to this announcement.

    So despite the fact the iPhone, statistically, still has a smaller installed userbase in the UK than the Blackberry, or Symbian platforms the BBC once again focusses on them?

    It's just like when the BBC released it's media on iTunes, whilst ignoring other vendors and without paying attention to the fact it was already content we'd paid for once with our license fee.

    Please, can the BBC get out of bed with Apple? It's getting tiresome, the majority of us who do not consume via Apple - and it is a majority, are the ones being left behind.

    Either release on all major platforms together, or don't release at all. Alternatively use a neutral technology like the Java platform, and leave it up to the vendors themselves to decide whether to support that technology.

    Another of many of the BBC's finest examples of bias over the years.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm wondering why we need dedicated apps for accessing BBC content. Surely producing platform-optimised web content would be more accessible, cheaper to produce and open to a wider range of mobile devices. Is there anything that the BBC apps do which couldn't be done with HTML5 and the iPhone's support of CSS3? This is speaking as a big fan of the BBCs current mobile site which is both fast and efficient.

  • Comment number 5.

    What a thoroughly silly idea. Why not spend the time, money and effort on improving the mobile web site so that all mobile users can access it comfortably?

    This smells rather strongly of buzzwords.

  • Comment number 6.

    While it's great that the BBC are embracing mobile tech, it's a little sad that it comes first to the minority. Despite all the marketing gust that would have you believe that everybody and their dog has an iPhone,

    a) That's just plain not true. Symbian dominates. And,
    b) Bringing out the app for a minority is just giving Apple more free marketing.

    This is important. There are fledgeling platforms out there that are genuinely better than iTunes, better than the iPhone, better than OSX or Windows. Linux gets a twice-a-year mention on the BBC and I've only ever noticed it on the website - never on the telly... This is while governments and schools embrace it, saving billions... That's apparently not news for us.

    People wonder why our government is so stuck in closed, proprietary Microsoft (et al) software. They demand openness and better software budgeting. The problem is that there's nobody telling them any different.

    This is your job. To provide fair, balanced reporting about all technical things. So how about we try to cater to the masses and release a Java app for the millions of phones in this country that support it? Then perhaps recognise Android and even Maemo?

    And how about some focus on open source every so often? Tell people what it is, that it's all around them, powering the internet, airports, parking machines, phones, desktops, Playstation 3s. Some news from the world in free and open source software wouldn't go amiss either. There's lots happening.

  • Comment number 7.

    "web equals mobile; mobile equals web" - but mobile does not (always) equal Apple!

    As others have mentioned already Auntie's obcession with i(Whatever) is getting tiresome - I was pleased (if a little surprised) when the Symbian iPlayer app was released, and wondered whether it had finally occurred to the powers-that-be that there are other platforms, but it would seem my optimism was misplaced.

  • Comment number 8.

    All I want you to do is work with o2 to get iPlayer over 3G working first... Get access to the current content working for everyone and then work on new projects.

  • Comment number 9.

    I agree with jammmet, wouldn't it be a better use of the license fee to just make one really good, cross-mobile-platform web interface, than to create several, hard coded, native apps for the various available smartphones?

    However, iwinter, I don't think Java is the solution. Java was the platform of choice for mobile phones for near 10 years, and never really took off. It (J2ME) has many negatives, such as being complicated to program for, lacking in many features and not really as cross-platform as it claims!

  • Comment number 10.

    Off the top of my admittedly ignorant-iphone head, don't such sophisticated gadgets increase security risks?
    Technical advancements just keep improving - way beyond what the average person seems to need. From what I’ve read the new iphone's capability to download & store data is massive.
    So, my ignorant-iphone brain connects data theft with devices like the iPhone, which could download a company's entire bank of personal data in a matter of minutes (seconds?). The theft may even go undetected.
    Companies will need to incur increased security costs just to keep pace with iphone technology and other tehcnologies like it.
    Why do we have to make phones so darn sophisticated for the use of average person?

  • Comment number 11.

    I don't have an i-phone, and I don't use apps. In fact when I'm out and about why would I want to read the news on a phone, when all I have to do is turn on the radio??

    Seems to me, to be a complete waste of the licence fee...

  • Comment number 12.

    No Symbian app? It might not be the cutting edge platform, but more people have Nokias than iPhones.

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree ... "All I want you to do is work with o2 to get iPlayer over 3G working first". Its been far too long already.

    As an avid iphone and app user I have to say I can't understand why the BBC are focussing on it almost exclusively. All they need to do is target HTML5 and web standards and it (should) be available on all mobile devices. Apple appstore is not the answer.

  • Comment number 14.

    iwinter,

    "Please, can the BBC get out of bed with Apple? It's getting tiresome, the majority of us who do not consume via Apple - and it is a majority, are the ones being left behind."

    Yes, the BBC does get a bit excited about Apple product releases - but drooling at the mouth at the latest shiny things to come out of Cupertino does not equal "being in bed with Apple".

    The BBC iPlayer is a good example. During the initial development of the iPlayer, the BBC insisted on using Windows Media DRM for copy-protection of downloaded programmes, even though there were platform-neutral alternatives available. Because Windows Media DRM is not supported on any platform other than Windows, I and other OS X users relied on streaming video from the web-based iPlayer - which was invariably unwatchable except at the dead of night due to insufficient bit rates - this effectively excluded anyone not using Windows from using iPlayer. To me that would indicate rather "being in bed with Microsoft".

    I suspect one reason for the BBC's decision to release apps for iPhone OS first is the recent report showing that the average iPhone user is a much heavier user of data downloads than even the average BlackBerry user. (I can attest to that: I use my laptop a lot less for browsing the web now that I have an iPhone.)

  • Comment number 15.

    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 16.

    Blimey. What a bunch of moaners. I didn’t complain when the BBC launched iPlayer for Windows first and Mac at a later date, so please don’t moan about your Nokia etc app not being at the front of the queue. This ‘me now’ mentality is pretty sickening.

    This is great news for everyone who accesses news and sports on the move – just have a little patience in the meantime!

  • Comment number 17.

    No love for Android phone users? You disappoint me BBC.

  • Comment number 18.

    Are you going to charge for these apps to cover their development costs? If not, expect a letter from me to the BBC Trust from me complaining about the waste of licence payers' money. The mobile BBC site already performs an adequate function. Also, please explain why you're rolling it out to a minority (4th place) phone platform first.

  • Comment number 19.

    @Fathertedrules #16. Part of the BBC's mission is to provide its content to the widest possible licence-paying audience. By choosing a minority platform for it's initial roll-out, it is failing in this mission. It is the responsibility of licence-fee payers to highlight such matters.

  • Comment number 20.

    Already got News 24 on my ipod touch. BBC behind the curve again.

  • Comment number 21.

    Speaking as a web developer, wouldn't generic 3G-friendly development be of more use than specific applications for one propriatory platform? If you don't happen to use an iPhone an iPhone app is as much use as a chocolate teapot, while many different devices can access webpages.

  • Comment number 22.

    "Our approach has always been simple: web equals mobile; mobile equals web."

    Lovely. Care to explain how applications come into that simple equation?

    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 23.

    if you are not part of the "smartphone set" , you can still find the content via your mobile browser at bbc.co.uk/mobile.

    What a crass, and ignorant comment to make.
    Plenty of smartphones out there, other than Apple ones, and if the same information is there on a browser, why develop something that is not required?

    Are Bookmarks really that difficult to manage?

  • Comment number 24.

    This seems like a step backwards to me. When Apple first released the iPhone and iPod Touch, what struck me was how great normal "desktop-sized" web sites looked on the devices. I usually get quite annoyed when I am taken to an iPhone specific version of a site, and I'm glad BBC News doesn't do that.
    To me seems seems a bit like bandwagon jumping. Unless the apps offer something vastly different to the web site, I can't get excited about it.

    Being able to download and store programs for offline use would be a nice feature for any iPlayer app that was released. What about 3G streaming? In the one or two places where you can get 3G signal, being able to watch some iPlayer would be very nice. But if these apps are just repackaged web site content, the I have to wonder what's the point?

  • Comment number 25.

    You see, I think this is plain wrong.

    The BBC is a public service broadcaster, funded effectively by a tax. And the iPhone is a proprietary device owned by Apple. As far as I know, it has a contract in the UK only with O2, another commercial interest.

    So the BBC is using tax-payers' money to fund particular, commercial interests; to give them in fact an unfair commercial advantage over other companies. That's very, very wrong.

    If you had announced a service for Google Android, for example, that would be much more understandable. Because Android is an Open Source mobile operating system, freely available to any phone manufacturer, available on any network. If you'd taken a Linux-based solution, that would be fine. And if you felt there were no Open Source solutions available which fit the bill, honestly you should not be offering the service until such time as it is.

    I know the BBC does not operate in a vacuum. I accept the reality that sometimes you will make systems which only work with the Windows Operating System on PCs, because the vast majority of people use Windows and occasionally alternative technologies may not be available elsewhere. In that case you should work with Open Source projects to even the playing field at the first opportunity. But making an exclusive iPlayer application, enriching Apple and O2 at the expense of other companies - that is very clearly wrong.

  • Comment number 26.

    Wasn't the BBC's reason for putting iPlayer on Windows XP first that it would reach the most users? So why now switch to a preference for a minority, close, proprietary platform?

    This announcement seems to be about giving their friends at Apple some MORE free publicity.

    Come on BBC, where's the Symbian version?

  • Comment number 27.

    emmmm, why is it the the bbc are always in the wake of something... how about a winmo app, flip sake, i pay a licence fee too and not everyone is stupid enough to own an i-phone

  • Comment number 28.

    Pete:

    Congrats on the great news with Iphone app....

    (Dennis Junior)

  • Comment number 29.

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

  • Comment number 30.

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

  • Comment number 31.

    Whats an Iphone?-is it another of those things only urban dwellers are allowed to use such as digital radio;terrestrial digital TV;high speed cable broadband;G3 mobile broadband.Because whilst ever it is restricted to one mobile provider whose rural coverage is limited and almost non existent here in the Highlands of Scotland this will always be the case!
    I am not prepared to travel 30 miles to Inverness to use an Iphone or listen to a digital radio.

  • Comment number 32.

    "Web equals mobile, mobile equals web" - so let's develop an app for the tiny minority?

    Some mistake, surely?

  • Comment number 33.

    Assuming the BBCs continued love in with Apple is due to its (now weakened thanks to the iTray) position as a "style icon" perhaps the developers of these "apps" (a tiresome title for something that is often nothing more than a platform-optimised webpage, and that certainly seems the case here) could make some effort to support Windows Phone 7 Series' Metro interface when it is released later this year.

    Incidentally, interesting figures on smartphone use can be seen here: http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=985912 - evidently Nokia and RIM/BlackBerry users aren't as attractive to the BBC as iPhone users.

  • Comment number 34.

    @Andy Ye "If you had announced a service for Google Android, for example, that would be much more understandable."

    They did. Have you actually read the blog?

    All those people suggesting that an HTML interface would do the same are wrong - the BBC already provides one of those, but there is plenty of reason for a dedicated app, which is why hundreds of thousands of people use those from competing news providers - a dedicated app doesn't have to fetch any graphics or layout tables, hence allowing it to load much, much faster over a crappy phone connection than a webpage would.

    @RedGreeninBlue "The BBC iPlayer is a good example. During the initial development of the iPlayer, the BBC insisted on using Windows Media DRM for copy-protection of downloaded programmes, even though there were platform-neutral alternatives available."

    Please name one, as this is a lie. WM DRM was the only DRM at the time that supported 7 day timeouts for downloaded content.

    Phazer

  • Comment number 35.

    Sure Symbian has 4 times the market share over the iPhone, but its not really an "apps" platform. Symbian users don't choose Symbian because they actually want it, most of the users just get it with their phone (I'm talking about the average Joe on the street, not us tech heads).
    iPhone isn't exactly chosen because its a better "phone" as such, but its a cool Apple product, very simple to use, and all round great device. But you have to look at what it does and how people use it, it would be hard to find a single iPhone user that doesn't have a third party app installed.

    iPhone isn't just iPhone though, its also the iPod Touch. Touch is 70% of the 200m iPods sold (that's alot of users), there is a huge audience combing these which isn't just a few tech heads that use the Symbian to its full potential.

    Android on the other hand is another platform that is important (if not more) currently its mainly featured on a range of phones but there's reach beyond just phones, to low end laptops, set-top boxes and beyond. Considering though that they are already working on an Android version simply leaves this as a none issue.

  • Comment number 36.

    @iwinter
    "It's just like when the BBC released it's media on iTunes, whilst ignoring other vendors and without paying attention to the fact it was already content we'd paid for once with our license fee."

    Except that this was BBC WorldWide, the *commercial* arm of the BBC (the one that deals with all this sort of stuff) and not the LF-funded non-commercial operation.

    @Andi Ye
    "As far as I know, it has a contract in the UK only with O2, another commercial interest."

    Wrong. That contract ended a short while ago.


  • Comment number 37.

    I use the BBC app & widget on my Android phone (not sure if it is official BBC or just very well put together) and sadly I think the commercial naysayers are simply not putting content into such an easy to select and read format.

    This isn't about iPod (yes I have a Touch), or Symbian or the new Microsoft Mobile 7 for that matter.

    It's about great news and sport content on my mobile in a useful and well presented / structured format.

    I don't watch quite enough BBC television to justify my license fee, so I especially resent any commercial company trying to get the BBC to cut back so they can offer pay per view or heavily advertised content when the BBC does it better and I've already paid for it!

    Keep going Beeb!!!

  • Comment number 38.

    Yes, I'm an iPhone owner (2y) but contrary to the complaining from the Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) reported elsewhere, it seems to me that the BBC is playing catch up here. I've had the ITN News and Sky News apps for at least a year, plus the Eurosport, Independent and Guardian apps as soon as they were announced. There are lots more available (eg Sky has football and cricket apps). Compared to all of these, the BBCs currently offerings seem a little fusty.

    I'm very pleased that the BBC is launching BBC News and BBC Sport apps

    Go BBC!

  • Comment number 39.

    The BBC is offering is exactly what we - your target msrket- wants. The licence fee is well worth the money particularly in regard to the BBC i- player and these new proposed applications. Bravo BBC!

  • Comment number 40.

    Does this mean that us non-iPhone owners get a partial refund on our licence fee?

  • Comment number 41.

    RE: #9 Rikki

    What you say is not true, Java has been a resounding success, hence why it is the platform used to develop Android, Symbian, Blackberry apps, and can also be used to develop Windows Mobile apps.

    Suggesting that it is not cross platform is silly, because Java itself is entirely platform neutral, vendors however have the responsibility to allow implementation of a JVM to interpret Java for their platform.

    Whilst different platforms may have different libraries, for example for user interfaces, any core code (i.e. code for connecting to the BBC, receiving, parsing, and preparing it's data for display) will be completely portable.

    Of course, the BBC will be against this because the iPhone is the only phone on the market to not support Java, because that would go against Steve Job's regime of control that it he runs at Apple.

    So basically, rather than create a Java version first, which would allow access to the app to the overwhelming majority of the population with mobile phones, the BBC has decided to focus on the iPhone, which uses an obscure language that cannot hence be easily ported, only really used by Apple and hence give priority to a minority.

    I can only guess, the BBC's software developers are Apple fans, as this decision makes absolutely no sense from an objective standpoint.

  • Comment number 42.

    Will this be available to non-UK users? I'm in the US, and would love to have the BBC when I get my iPod touch. (I'd also love to see more BBC apps or games...Those who know me know Who I'm talking about... ;) )

  • Comment number 43.

    Oh for the love of all that is holy. Will you lot stop bloody winging. The BBC are being innovative and exploring new technologies and new ways of getting content out to people.

    And all you can do is cry like pathetic children because your preferred operating system isn't first in line.

    Grow up.

  • Comment number 44.

    What about Windows 6.5?
    There is no indication that the BBC is eevn considering this: and I wonder if this could be taken as a dereliction of duty? Has the motto changed to "iPhone shall speak news unto iPhone"? :-)
    If you are enabling one set of mobile users ought the BBC to consider all?
    There seems to be (cf the 'Guardian' and 'Time' magazine) a rush to supply iPhone apps and to neglect the rest of us.
    Come on BBC, do the decent thing, and give us all (iPhone/Symbiam/Windows/Android etc) a shiny button to press!

  • Comment number 45.

    Why is the BBC launching its mobile applications first on the iPhone despite other platforms having greater marketshare?

    This might be the reason: http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2010/01/apple-responsible-for-994-of-mobile-app-sales-in-2009.ars

    Yes, Symbian and Blackberry might have greater marketshare, but applications for the iPhone have a *MUCH* higher audience reach than any other mobile platform.

  • Comment number 46.

    Re: #43 - Bob in Bury
    I partly agree. Non-iPhone users should wait patiently. BUT what if BBC is not going to support other operating systems? I use Symbian and Windows Mobile and I can wait quite long time when I know that I will not wait infinitely.
    I appreciate that BBC is exploring new technologies and I hope that they respect all users
    I wish BBC would inform us if and when they are going to support other platforms.

  • Comment number 47.

    @#41 iwinter

    You are not comparing like with like. While Android phones are programmed in java, the applications will not run outside of the Android environment as they use Android specific libraries and a non-standard virtual machine (Dalvik). Android phones cannot run J2ME apps "out of the box". There are J2SE implementations on the Android Market, but they are all fairly unreliable.

    J2ME is designed to run on memory restricted devices like regular mobile phones (i.e. not "smart" phones) and is really only suitable for trivial applications. Also there are variations in the versions and optional libraries available on specific phones so the Java nirvana of "compile once, run anywhere" is nigh on impossible to achieve on most devices.

    The Palm Pre doesn't support Java. Applications for its operating system (WebOS) are written in JavaScript which, despite its name, is not related to Java at all.


    Having said that, it would be eminently feasible to create a rich mobile web site that would be usable on most smartphone web browsers.

  • Comment number 48.

    I'm an iPhone owner but contrary to the complaining from the Newspaper Publishers Association reported elsewhere, it seems to me that the BBC is playing catch up here. Ive had the ITN News and Sky News apps for at least a year, plus the Eurosport, Independent and Guardian apps as soon as they were announced. There are lots more available. Compared to all of these, the BBCs currently offerings seem a little fusty.

    I'm pleased they BBC are launching a BBC News and BBC Sport app, i might give them a review on my site http://lovefreeiphne.com soon [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 49.

    When is it being launched?

  • Comment number 50.

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

  • Comment number 51.

    Great news. I need to try these application in order to comment. In France, the bigest sites are also some iPhone applications for football or the world cup. I will compare asap.

  • Comment number 52.

    @Eponymous Cowherd
    "Having said that, it would be eminently feasible to create a rich mobile web site that would be usable on most smartphone web browsers."

    We did until Thursday 13th of May 2010 - the NOLPAD news site, which sadly now redirects to the (can not link to the BBC page due to house rules). No comment yet from Beeb as to why this occurred.

 

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