While Microsoft is attempting to woo developers to build applications for its Windows Phone 8 platform, there will certainly be omissions when the platform launches in October. The BBC have responded to an email of a WPCentral tipster, which sheds light on some of the frustrations some Windows Phone developers are facing.
Microsoft uses a different technology for streaming video content, requiring the BBC to do more work to make their programs compatible with Windows Phone. This is in contrast to Android and iOS, which require separate applications to be built, but run on the same underlying file wrappers. A Windows Phone application could be built easily enough, but would require the BBC to convert their content to conform with Microsoft’s formats.
The BBC added a controversial statement to the response, suggesting that if they built an iPlayer application for Windows Phone 7, it would need to be rebuilt entirely for Windows Phone 8. This point counters Microsoft’s assertion that Windows Phone 7 applications would be compatible with Windows Phone 8 without major reprogramming.
One potential workaround for the lack of a native iPlayer application would be for Windows Phone users to access the BBC’s web streaming service, though the company claims a bug in the native Windows Phone browser currently prevents the browser from securing the session. The BBC states that Microsoft has been aware of the bug for over a year but has yet to provide a fix. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for a comment on this issue, but the company hadn’t respond as of press time. We will update this story once we hear back.
The BBC is hopeful that either a native application for Windows Phone 8 or a workaround for the multimedia bug in the native browser will be resolved soon, though only the latter option will benefit current Windows Phone 7 users.
Thanks for your mail. I’m adding [Redacted] — who is the Head of iPlayer on my team — in case he has anything to add.
There are two ways we can go about bringing iPlayer to Windows Phone:
1. We can build a full app — the kind you get in the Marketplace. This is completely bespoke to Windows Phone 7, and is the costliest option because Windows Phone uses technologies unlike those used on any other platform. While Android and Apple also use their own app technologies, the TV and radio programmes themselves can be created once and used across both, so much of the investment is reusable. Sadly this is not the case for Windows Phone. Unfortunately Microsoft have also announced that Windows Phone 8 apps will be different yet again, so any Windows Phone 7 app we make would have to be rebuilt from the ground up for the next version of Windows Phone.
2. We can encourage Windows Phone users to access our mobile web site by opening bbc.co.uk/iplayer from their phones. Unfortunately today there’s a bug in Windows Phone that prevents our standards-based media from being played on those devices. Microsoft has been aware of the bug for over a year now, and we’re hopeful they’ll address it (on Windows Phone 7 as well as Windows Phone 8) so our Windows Phone audiences can access iPlayer.
As you can see, there’s no easy answer. I’m optimistic that one or both of the options above will become possible in Windows Phone 8, but that’s little help to people like you who are using Windows Phone 7. Nonetheless, hopefully this additional detail helps you understand our thought process.” - Daniel Danker, General Manager, Programmes & On Demand, BBC