Is Silverlight the BBC iPlayer Silver Bullet?

Is Silverlight the BBC iPlayer Silver Bullet?We’re all aware that the BBC is planning to make their iPlayer compatible with Macs … and we even know that now that the BBC Trust has committed to make it work with Linux (shock horror).

Well if you’re like most of the tech population, you might be scratching your heads, wondering how the bleep they’re going to be doing it – given that the whole system relies on Microsoft technology to deliver any of it, and in particular the DRM. Especially as, to date Microsoft has steadfastly refused to deliver a media player for the Mac that has DRM built in.

Well, given the BBC Trust have given them a “reasonable amount of time” to get to this goal – ie potentially years, it’s pretty lucky that Microsoft have been busying themselves with SilverLight.

It’s still Microsoft (phew!) and it might well be the thing that the BBC see as coming to the rescue of the project.

It’s a Flash-like product, potentially giving the BBC the ability to play back video on Macintosh and eventually Linux.

An Microsoft insider, very close to the Silverlight project told us that Silverlight 1.1, to be available in ’08, will play back Windows DRM’d content on both Windows and Mac – Giving the BBC and the Trust the perfect get out for their “reasonable amount of time,” that they’re promising.

Is Silverlight the BBC iPlayer Silver Bullet?But what about the elusive Linux client? Talk to the right people in the Linux world and they’ll tell you that there are plans afoot to code a Sliverlight client for Linux, creating the perfect get out for the BBC and BBC Trust. Dates on the delivery of the Linux client are far from clear, with, we hear, close to no one on the commercial side of the content being interesting in it.

Perhaps the BBC can pull in the huge pile of favours that they must have in the pot with Microsoft for devoting the whole of the iPlayer to their technology – and get them working on Silverlight for Linux.

While Silverlight would give playback on a number of Operating Systems, some feel that the BBC depending on a single technology provider does not fit in with the BBC’s history of openness. Us included.