BBC iPlayer boss: 'It will never be as easy to develop for Android as Apple'

BBC iPlayer boss: 'It will never be as easy to develop for Android as Apple'

Summary: BBC's iPlayer chief outlines the challenges that developers face in getting apps out to Android users, but concludes that this is "where the audience is."

BBC iPlayer on an Android-powered Samsung smartphone. Credit: BBC

Android may have a bigger market share of the smartphone and tablet market than Apple does, but apps are making their way onto iPhones and iPads faster because Android development requires more effort.

This claim was made by Daniel Danker, the BBC's head of the iPlayer app. Speaking to the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, Danker offers a behind-the-scenes look at the difficulties associated with developing Android apps.

"If you look at the amount of energy we spend on Apple, it pales in comparison to what we spend on Android," he said, before going on to explain the reasons why.

"It's not just fragmentation of the operating system -- it is the sheer variety of devices. Before "Ice Cream Sandwich" [Android 4.0] most Android devices lacked the ability to play high quality video. If you used the same technology as we've always used for iPhone, you'd get stuttering or poor image quality. So we're having to develop a variety of approaches for Android."

While Android may have a larger share of the market than the Apple-branded competition, that market share is made up of a broad range of hardware running a handful of different versions of the Android operating system.

See alsoWhy Microsoft is right to chase Android patent deals

In order to try to alleviate this problem, the BBC is taking the approach breaking down the hardware into subsets based on capability and screen size, and handling each group in a different way. The broadcaster is also continuing to use technologies such as Adobe Flash and Adobe Air to deliver content because "they provide the only means of playing video across the entire population of devices."

"We don't love the one-size-fits-all approach but we can't have an individual approach for each device, so we're going to find a middle ground."

Danker is resigned to the fact that Android is a much tougher platform to code for than iOS, but is committed to it nonetheless.

"It will never be as easy to develop for Android as Apple because of the variety of devices, but we're not upset about that - it's where the audience is. Apple may punch above its weight in users accessing video and so on, but much of the Android audience are just the kind of people we want to reach, people who've never used their phones before in this way."

He also sees advantages to Android, listing the platform's ability to multitask as one of them, and the lack of a disciplined approval process in order to release an app as the other. This is why Android owners can't get access the goods as fast as iPhone and iPad owners do. But, thanks to an overwhelming market share, developers can't ignore Android.

And there's more good news. According to data from Google, Android 4.1 and 4.2 "Jelly Bean" saw a massive jump in usage share over the November, rising from 2.7 percent to 6.7 percent.

Google is getting better at pushing updates out to users, but while it has taken "Jelly Bean" over four-and-a-half months to break 6 percent, data published by research firm Chitika Insights showed that over 60 percent of iPhones and iPads upgraded to iOS 6.0 -- the latest version -- in under four weeks.

Topics: Android, Operating Systems, Smartphones, Tablets

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  • Write once debug everywhere

    Welcome to the fantasy land of FOSS development where every fool is entitled to create own version that results in 800 different distributions for you Android developers to test-run before being able to release your app.

    "Open-source has no business model." - Bill Gates. Truer words have never been said.
    • RE: "Open-source has no business model." - Bill Gates

      Looks like Mr. Bill was wrong:

      One has to wonder whether you actually read any of the articles at ZDNet.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Quality Android development is a mess.

    And that is being generous. I have friends that work at a mobile game company doing cross platform work on iOS and Android. 80% of revenues come from iOS. 70% of effort goes to Android.

    They keep thinking it is time to cut the baby loose because the promise of market share is fools gold.
    • Zero Mentality Needed to see Android Apps Developed in Simple Java!

      Apparently this guy isn't familiar with Java Programming and the reality is nothing is easier to program for than Java Applications. The reasons are quite simple; Java is more mature than Apps developed in Objective C. Which if you aren't familiar with it, is a nightmare to deal with and any newb iOS developer will tell you that. Unlike the App tools in the Java Platform used in Android App development. Where even grandmothers can do simple app development. So... Oh..... geeee... the developer has to compile their App in to dalvik .api's. It's so easy as to be nearly automatic! .....there are over 5 times the developers that can code Java Apps in this world!

      The Truth is iOS App developers have been pumped up with so much FUD & mis-information it's pathetic. About how they are all going to get so rich off iOS App development. It's like hyping the Lottery!!! lol... Yet.... less than 20% of iOS developers make over 80% of the $7 billion earned off iOS App Store to date.

      So let's compare that to game developers on Sony PS2 platform how alone. Over 5 yrs of it being on market, Developers were averaging over $500-800 Million in Revenue on $60 games, in a deluge of games numbering over 5000. The big winners were taking home $5 Billion. Topped by Gran Turismo Series selling a massive near 70 Million copies. Tell us which App on iOS has sold even close to that at $60 a pop? Gran Turismo 5 alone has sold over 9 million since launching in late 2010!

      Naturally you have to consider the fact that Sony PS2 is the all time highest revenue earner for game developers on any platform, including non game application developers. Now we have to bring into this comparison that though Android Play Store has been open far less time, the fact that is.... Play Store now has equal number of Apps offered as iOS App Store. Apple only has a very limited number of exclusives earning no where near what Sony's developers were earning on any game. Most likely no where nowhere close to even $100 million in Revenue. Top that off with this rather simple fact; Google has always considered it's App Store to be a temporary stop gap measure. While waiting for HTML5 Apps to hit dominance sometime by 2016 to 2018. So knowing this, Apple's App Store Revenue for developers is expected to dry up then too and both will switch to primarily content sales!

      Now to make my point clearer.... Apple hasn't earned developers all that much and the reality is Java Apps have earned developers far more over it's history than Apple has. But.... HTML 5 online Applications, because they will be all available cross platform and the business model, is expected to earn developers far more than what Google earns in Ads a year alone! :D .....meaning the largest single source of revenue for developers in the history of computing!
  • Look at reality of Android

    Is android fragmented: yes.
    Does it have lots of hardware platforms: yes
    What has it replaced: ????
    This is the issues Android is not replacing just IOS, but all cellphone and tablet OS (which were much more fragmented before). It is by design a single unified platform (which developers has begged to have for years). You do not need you Nokia team, Rim team, etc. just one android team with multiple platforms and version. Is it perfect:No. Is it better than most developers could have dreamed of 2 years ago:yes
    • It isn't one platform though

      Each device has a customized version of Android. The drivers are different, the hardware is different. Not every device has the same version of Android which translates to differences in the API's. Some devices have not and will never get an OS upgrade either.

      Also, it doesn't bridge the gap between tablets and regular computers because Google won't let Chrome OS die, and that's going to be their ultimate mistake.
      • Re: Each device has a customized version of Android.

        All of which support the same standard APIs, run apps built with exactly the same common build system, and support a common deployment architecture.

        Contrast this with Microsoft's fragmented and incompatible platforms--for example, see the recent fracas over HTC being unable to bring out a Windows Phone equivalent of its Android-running Droid DNA, the first production phone with a 1080p display. Tablet Windows can cope with that resolution, but phone Windows cannot. Why not? Android imposes no such artificial distinctions.
    • Except you don't have what you describe.

      You have your Exynos team, your Snapdragon team, your HTC team your Samsung team, your ZTE team, your Jelly Bean team, your Gingerbread team, your Ice Cream Sandwich team...

      It is the developers worst nightmare come to life: Lots of effort and low revenue.
      • No it isn't

        I'm sorry but if you know nothing about developing on Android then I recommend you to refrain from commenting on technical level. Assigning teams based on OS may make some sense, but on CPU or Vendor is just silly.

        Android software development doesn't care about Exynos/Snapdagon since CPU arch sits below HAL, developers only need to pick the hardware level and capabilities(armv6/armv7, w/wo NEON etc) to start with.

        Same goes for GB/JB/ICS, you pick an OS level and work your way up or down. This is not unlike developing ANYTHING on DirectX on PC.

        Sure it's much easier to develope on just one static platform like X360 or iOS. But if their goal is to reach as much audience as possible (BBC in this case), they'll need to go with multiple platforms. Programmers do that all the time. It's called doing their job.
        • That's the problem.

          The problem is trying to reach and satisfy as much audience as possible with one "write once run everywhere" app. Fools goal.

          How is it that iOS developers targeting one platform is able to rake in 80% of the app revenue, and Android developers with a million different devices to target are struggling?
          • Re: How is it that iOS developers targeting one platform is able to rake in

            Most IOS developers are not making money.
    • This has been every manufacturers and service providers dream

      since the beginning of time. Although it came pretty close in the IT enterprise world. A kind of tech socialism LOL.

      But this will never happen, platform-wise, for so many reasons.

      What I think is happening though is that developers are pushing native apps because they can make a lot more money building them,which require more versions and more involved maintenance as opposed to web apps that only need to be developed once for all platforms and are much easier to update.

      Granted HTML/javascript/CSS web apps may not be able to do everything native apps do yet, but I have a feeling that they can do plenty.
    • Talk About Fragmentation; Windows Platform is Far More Fragmented!

      Now need I explain that it covers 1000's of manufacturers, hardware models, etc than Android. So your point is moot at best. The reality is that fragmentation hasn't prevented the spread of Windows either! ;-P

      So hype about as worthless as Apple prematurely declaring FLASH was dead too. No doubt it's not and won't be until HTML 5 takes over dominating Cross Platform App development sometime around about 2015 to 2018. It's not there yet and won't be until an secure earnings model like FLASH and Java already have to benefit App developers. Where do you think 1000's of iOS Apps originated as? Yeah.... either Java or FLASH Apps!
  • Switch to Windows Phones

    Same experience and performance all devices, irrespective of the manufacturer.

    "He also sees advantages to Android, listing the platform's ability to multitask as one of them, and the lack of a disciplined approval process in order to release an app as the other."

    - Full of malware !!!!
    • Of course the malware

      So prevalent that almost no android users can turn on their phone without sending secret text messages or firing off their life history/details to 62 separate hacking collectives who then steal all of their money, all their friends money and kidnap their grandparents into the slave trade. yeah we know.

      Just because you keep repeating exaggerated claims about the android malware epidemic, doesn't make it true. I'm not saying there isn't malware but in 4yrs of using android, no one I know has complained of viruses or malware. I like to explore various areas of the net and have never picked up any malware. As I say, it's out there, I've seen the reports, but the way the anti-android collective talk, it's blown out of all proportion simply to prop up the rest of their questionable arguments. You're talking BS and you know it.
      Little Old Man
      • No malware?

        That's not strictly true, I've picked up a few nasty infections in the past, guess what, it was on a windows machine. Bit of time and they were soon dealt with but it does lead me to think windows is a sham of an OS and so riddled with malware it's unusable?
        Funny how the Owlnet's of this world ignore the rampant security issues in the M$ OS family but are happy to throw stones at other OS'. Why is that Owlnet? Why ignore the worst OS in history for malware when BS'ing about the android malware problem?
        Little Old Man
        • Windows is a Sham of an OS.

          "I've picked up a few nasty infections in the past, guess what, it was on a windows machine. Bit of time and they were soon dealt with but it does lead me to think windows is a sham of an OS and so riddled with malware it's unusable?"

          That is 100% correct - Windows is a sham of an OS and is riddled with malware it's unusable. Yes you can get infected on Linux and OS X but it's a lot harder and a lot less common.
          • I just don't understand why the argument is good for android

            but is completely ignored in relation to M$. There's massively more malware for windows but it's android that should be ditched because of the uncontrollable malware? Surely the people writing these comments aren't that stupid? Are they?
            Little Old Man
          • Just like your posts

            You know, the Sham part.

            Please - tell us ANOTHER bedtime story - like the one where somebody plugged in a computer to the network and 10,000 viruses were let loose and destroyed all of the 500 computers in your company in 30 seconds!
            William Farrel
          • Windows OS X Mobile OS's All Toll have had more Malware than Linux Ever

            Linux is what all other Operating Systems attempt to copy in their Security model with Secure Log-ins being only one of them!

            True Windows