Instead of dropping Adobe completely, the BBC has switched its media services to Adobe Air and from today will use its new BBC Media Player app to playback audio and video across its iPlayer website.
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In a blog post explaining its decision, the BBC says that the BBC Media Player app for Android will help playback mobile content from its iPlayer mobile website while it seeks to release a new version of the iPlayer app for the platform.
The app will automatically handle any media the BBC hosts on its websites, playing it directly via the new Media Player app, no matter what version of Android the user has installed on their smartphone or tablet.
Because Flash was able to provide a consistent set of tools and services across all Android platforms, the BBC says that it needed a similar technology which would enable it to do the same now that the application had been discontinued.
It needed to work from Android 2.2 (Froyo) up to Android 4.1 (Jellybean), operate on both the BBC’s websites and native Android apps and provide “security obligations” that it had agreed with its rights holders. The BBC said that it also had to be cost effective and not require changes to its existing infrastructure.
HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) was one solution, but it isn’t supported on Android versions older than Honeycomb. That meant that one of the only platforms capable of ticking those boxes was Adobe’s other multi-platform technology: Adobe Air.
The BBC’s Chris Yanda writes:
We are making this change with our eyes open. No technology is perfect. We’ve seen some of the challenges that other Adobe Air based apps have had in the marketplace and so we have worked hard, both internally and with our technology partners to build the best application we can.
The BBC Media Player app is designed to be transparent and to operate from a single place. By handling media queries via the website, the BBC doesn’t have to update the technologies used on its website or different apps, instead it can make the changes in the Media Player app and have it connect to new and existing BBC tools and services.
The BBC says that Adobe has been “excellent” throughout the development process, ensuring that it was able to deliver its fantastic London 2012 Olympic Games coverage and release its new Media Player app on the Android platform.
Flash may be dead but Adobe’s technologies live on — at least on Android.
If you have an Android device and want to test out the new Media Player app, download it, install it and then visit the mobile iPlayer (linked within the app) or mobile BBC websites. If there are videos or audio to be played, the app will handle it all.
In our tests, we had an issue when we launched the BBC Media Player app and tried to view a TV show. However, the issue appears to be caused by the installation of the BBC iPlayer for Android app, which attempts to handle requests.
If you uninstall the iPlayer app and then use the Media Player app to select your shows, it works flawlessly.
Expect a new version of iPlayer for Android to hit in the next week, we will update you when it does.
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