- 9 Apr 08, 19:09 GMT
How ironic that it is the Nintendo Wii, and not the Playstation 3 nor Xbox 360, that becomes the first of the current generation of consoles to have a truly dynamic range of online video content.
The BBC's announcement of a deal with Nintendo to put the iPlayer's streaming service on the console makes something of a mockery claims by Sony and Microsoft that their consoles are the true multimedia machines.
Forget please, if you will, that it is the BBC working with Nintendo and the fact I work for the BBC - it's not relevant to what I want to talk about.
It's clear that the BBC has been talking to all console makers about the iPlayer. So why is the service on the Wii and not the PS3 or Xbox 360?
According to the Beeb's Erik Huggers it's because Sony and Microsoft wanted to "control" the iPlayer.
He said: "If you want to get on the PlayStation or Xbox, they want control of the look, the feel and the experience; they want it done within their shop, and their shop only."
Now what does that mean? Bearing in mind I only have one side of the story - I've asked Microsoft and Sony to respond to this - it would seem that Microsoft and Sony were placing too many demands on the corporation.
The streaming iPlayer is essentially a web service - it runs on Flash, near enough the world's most ubiquitous software development and so means any connected device that supports the right standard of Flash can play BBC content.
Both the Wii and PS3 have a web browser - and so in theory users could access the iPlayer directly.
But neither console - at present - support the form of Flash used in the iPlayer.
Clearly Nintendo is rectifying this - but is also going one stage further and offering a dedicated channel, which acts as a one click button to the iPlayer service.
Reading between the lines it would seem Microsoft was unwilling to work with the BBC unless it was given more control over how the content was accessed and presented inside Xbox Live, its walled garden online service.
It seems more puzzling for Sony to take this approach. It has said often that PS3 is an "open platform" and all it would take is a small update to let gamers access iPlayer in the web browser.
I think this is almost inevitable - and so Sony gamers shouldn't be too distraught.
For Microsoft the issue is more tricky because the 360 doesn't have a browser so any service has to "integrate" into Xbox Live.
I'm guessing that Microsoft wanted the content but not the iPlayer branding.
I also suspect that the BBC's free iPlayer service probably doesn't hold too much commercial interest for Microsoft because the company can't take a cut from the cost of rentals or downloads.
But given the paucity of video content on the European Xbox Live service, this would have been a quick win for the company.
What's more interesting is that the BBC's work with Nintendo has gone a step closer to achieving what many companies are working at - namely, bridging the gap between the web and the TV.
I suspect that ITV and Channel 4 will also be looking closely at how the BBC/Nintendo deal develops.
These are exciting times for online video - I feel we're close to a tipping point when it comes to people's use of and access to such video services.
From iTunes, to Channel 4's 4OD, ITV.com, iPlayer, PVRs, Joost and video on demand - TV will never be the same again.
UPDATE: I'm updating here because - as I'm sure you know - our comments system is a bit, ahem, flaky.
A couple of follow up points.
I may work for the BBC but I have no inside knowledge on the iPlayer. I don't work with the team, don't know them and I'm speculating as a journalist with the same kind of interest in online video as many of you have.
That said.... people have asked why the Wii gets a streaming service and there's still not a download version of iPlayer for Macs/Linux?
I have no idea. I'm guessing that it's because the Wii's streaming version of iPlayer is a quick win while a download version for Mac/Linux that has the type of DRM producers require to "protect" their content is a more involved process.
Some have also asked why the iPhone got a version of iPlayer when it doesn't support Flash.
As Anthony Rose explained...
it's because the iPhone does support a high-quality streaming format.
Streams mean not having to necessarily worry about copy protection - although the iPlayer team did have to make a few tweaks when some enterprising souls found a way to hack the streams.
Downloads mean you do have to worry about copy protection.
There are LOTS and LOTS of arguments about the efficacy of DRM - and I won't go into them here - suffice to say that producers and content makers demand the protection of their rights and the BBC has a duty to act on those demands.
There's lots more detail about the iPlayer over at the BBC Internet blog. It's a great read.
They really are in the know.
What I would say is that all I've read, heard and seen about the iPlayer leads me to believe that the team behind it, and the BBC more broadly, is committed to getting the iPlayer on to as many platforms as possible.
Given that the licence fee is universal, it's in the BBC's best interests to open up the iPlayer to everyone.
The BBC is limited by resources, as much as any organisation, but it seems likely the iPlayer will end up on PCs and Macs, on many mobile platforms, consoles, and set-top boxes.
But I repeat - I'm just speculating.
UPDATE TWO: Nick Reynolds, editor of the BBC Internet blog, has been in touch. He wants to respond personally to some of the comments.
So over to you Nick:
"Hi - I am the editor of the BBC Internet Blog. Here are some other links relevant to this discussion.
Gary's comment (number 10) and Paddy (number 26), iPlayer streaming is already available on the Mac. Mark Thompson has said that iPlayer downloads will be available on the Mac by the end of this year.
Stephen's comment (number 6), Ashley Highfield has discussed the question of the BBC's relationship with Microsoft in the Groklaw interview referred to in this post."
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