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Mobile World Congress Feature Articles

February 22, 2010

The BBC Laments Device Fragmentation, App Reformatting


Erik Huggers, director of the BBC's future media and technology division, attacked the mobile industry in his keynote speech at MWC recently, noting that 'as a broadcaster we're used to broadcasting once and the receivers just work. Why should we have to reformat our apps for every device?”

 
Indeed. And why should you have to get rid of a perfectly good horse just because some guy named Henry Ford's built some contraption?
 
Not that Huggers doesn't have a point. Fragmentation's a problem the industry has refused to deal with, and that may come back to bite it now, big time.

According to industry observer Tony Cripps, the BBC has 'unveiled plans to launch several new mobile applications showcasing its news, sport, and TV content. The BBC News app will arrive first, with the iPhone version leading the way in April.'
 
The BBC  announced a new range of free applications 'that will deliver its online services to mobile devices, starting with BBC News in April.'
 
Britain's The Guardian is reporting that the BBC 'is also considering an iPlayer application for release later in the year,' adding that 'BBC Sport will follow News, launching its application in May. Both apps will be launched in a UK and a global version.'
 
Anglotopia.net blogger Jonathan Thomas wrote that while 'many other British news sources have gotten on the iPhone (News - Alert) bandwagon and put out some pretty amazing apps,' the BBC has been 'surprisingly absent from this innovation, considering their embrace of digital innovation in the past with the iPlayer.'
 
The Beeb, however, is 'already finding the extent of software fragmentation between devices a burden,' Cripps noted, adding that while device-side fragmentation 'has always been the enemy of application developers,' the industry, after much talk and little action on the issue, 'is now setting itself up for major problems.'
 
Fragmentation is 'fast becoming a major obstacle to increased growth, at a time when mainstream content providers are showing unprecedented interest in the mobile channel and when mobile content consumption is rapidly increasing among users,' Cripps said: 'The cost of application development, porting, and maintenance is not trivial.'
 
Cripps said content providers will 'naturally come to favor some platforms over others, based on a combination of installed base, demographics of users on particular platforms' and other variables, saying 'until a common cross-platform application environment for devices becomes a reality, the entire value system around mobile content will suffer.'

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Amy Tierney










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