BBC iPhone apps for iPlayer, sport and news revealed

BlackBerry and Android versions to follow says tech chief Erik Huggers
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

BlackBerry and Android versions to follow says tech chief Erik Huggers

The BBC is launching a trio of apps: an iPlayer app, a news app and a sports results app. The announcement was made by Erik Huggers, the Beeb's head of future media and technology, during a keynote speech at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"While we have been in the business of a mobile browser service for about eight-plus years. . . today we're going to show you a couple of things we're going to be doing in the wonderful world of applications," Huggers told delegates.

The corporation will develop the apps for Apple's iPhone first but intends to be "platform neutral" - extending to as many smartphone OS platforms and devices as possible over time.

"[iPhone] is the first device that we'll target but very soon after BlackBerry, Android and other devices will be supported," said Huggers. "As long as there are devices that support these functionalities we will make sure the service is available."

BBC iPhone apps

The BBC shows off its iPhone apps at MWC in Barcelona.
Photo credit: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

Huggers said the BBC News app will launch first, in April this year, with the other apps coming in the "April/June timeframe".

Showing a demo of the news app during the keynote, Huggers said the intention was to make it visually rich, with top stories displayed as "carousels" that can be organised and customised to the user's personal tastes. Individual news stories can have video embedded - and Huggers demoed this by playing a clip of Tony Blair giving evidence to the Iraq Inquiry.

"Clean, simple, easy to use, quick access to the information that you want, when you want it and where you want it," he added. "The whole concept is we want you as a consumer to be able to control this with one hand, just literally with a thumb be able to find everything you're interested in."

The sports results app will initially offer football results but Huggers said the corporation will be adding more sports "later on". "You'll get live updates from what's happening on the field, you'll see gossip linked into 5 Live," he added.

Huggers said there has been an "incredible change in consumption" of the BBC's web services on mobile - ramping up especially after "snow day" in February 2009 when many commuters were unable to get to work, and following Michael Jackson's death in June 2009 when Auntie saw 14 times the normal traffic on that day. The corporation had expected traffic to fall back but Huggers said it "just kept growing".

"People have underestimated how much consumers want to have access to this stuff on the go," he added.

Huggers also briefly touched on mobile network operators' capacity concerns about carrying all this data - noting this is an "area that we really need to work".

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