BBC iPlayer arrives for Mac and Linux
The BBC have announced that the downloading version of iPlayer, previously only available to Windows users, is now available to Mac and Linux users. The new iPlayer application is an Adobe AIR based application and was announced on the same day Adobe announced AIR for Linux. Supported Linux platforms, therefore, are the same as Adobe AIR, Fedora Core 8 or later, Ubuntu 7.10 or later and OpenSUSE 10.3 or later.
The BBC had been widely criticised for their lack of non Windows support when the iPlayer service originally launched. The Windows client was based upon various Microsoft technologies and users worried that the BBC was going to end up actively locking out other platforms. The issue was raised with the BBC Trust, after which the BBC committed to supporting other platforms over time. A Flash based online playing service was launched following that commitment, but the download based service was still only available to Windows users. The new AIR application addresses the platform availability question, but does leave the BBC exposed to the criticism that they have created the iPlayer on a different proprietary platform.
We installed the new iPlayer on Ubuntu 8.10 to see how it worked. The BBC seem to have launched the player and not updated the help or FAQ sections as yet, so to get the player, users need to go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/install/bbc_iplayer_desktop. The page may then request that you upgrade to the latest flash player, which we did, but it still failed to note we had the latest version. This was resolved by un-installing the "flashplugin-nonfree" and then installing the .deb file downloaded from Adobe.
With the install page recognising we had the latest flash, the AIR and iPlayer installation ran automatically and in a few minutes we were downloading programmes. Downloads are initiated by visiting the iPlayer pages at the BBC and, when a programme is available to download, a button appears in the bottom right of the display. Click the "Download" button and the iPlayer Downloader starts up and begins downloading. After a couple of minutes we had our first programme down and were watching Charlie Brookers Screenwipe in much better quality than the online flash player.