Huawei lashes out at ABC for Apple bias

Friday afternoon is the typical time for outbursts against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation before heading off to G&T time, and this week, Huawei has stepped up to attack the ABC over its lack of Android support.

Has Huawei been spending too much time around the Sydney Institute? From the correspondence that just arrived in my inbox, one would be sorely tried to find another reason.

In an anti-ABC rant that would make Senator Eric Abetz blush, the Chinese telecommunications hardware supplier has attacked the national broadcaster for its apparent Apple bias in regards to the lack of an Android version of its popular iView app.

"Is the ABC the Apple Broadcast Corporation or the Anti-droid Broadcast Corporation? Looking at the evidence, they both fit so well," said Huawei Corporate Affairs director Jeremy Mitchell.

Mitchell is well on his way to a five paws award from Gerard Henderson next Friday with that kind of talk.

"Like many Australian Android users, I have been hearing 'the Android iView app is coming' for far too long," continued Mitchell.

"Despite the claims of the ABC, there has been no real evidence that there is any desire to fill this blatant gap. It feels like Godot will arrive before the iView app gets here on Android."

But Mitchell isn't done yet, citing the fact that iOS has been the only mobile platform with an iView app since 2010, and claiming that with the "AU$30 million of taxpayer funds" the corporation received to enhance its online platforms in 2013, he says it is disappointing that the ABC has ignored Android thus far.

"It's disappointing that the public broadcaster has turned its back on the predominant operating system, which is free, open, and not aligned to one particular company. Rather, the ABC has continued to favour one company's product and platform," said Mitchell.

Huawei, are you sure you want this experience? Image: Screenshot by Chris Duckett/ZDNet

"This is a public policy issue — imagine if the ABC only broadcast their TV programming to one brand of television — it's outrageous!"

Unfortunately, that is where the Huawei lashing stops. I was hoping for more information of an upcoming ABC-endorsed Apple TV to really lock this conspiracy theory in once and for all.

And while Huawei's approach has been rather glib, it does raise an issue that affects increasingly more and more users across Australia and around the world as Android continues eating up market share .

Previously, app makers have been able to dismiss a lack of Android support by hiding behind a series of statistics that firstly took the form of "Apple dominates devices sold", but as Android won on that metric, it moved onto web usage and app store profits.

The latest reason to skip Android app development has now moved onto the plethora of screen sizes that are possible in the Android ecosystem. It's amazing how much people forget that this problem was solved years ago in the desktop and web development space, where any dimension is possible when a window is resized.

But if one starts to entertain that thought at all, then you'll realise that the platform with the least variation in screen size, and the platform with the best developing environment (minus the horrible debugger) is Windows Phone — and it is not exactly setting the world alight with magical must-have apps.

But that is one of the reasons the ABC is hiding behind.

"While not the overriding issue for the ABC, there is also the considerable challenge faced by all developers for Android, and that is the fragmentation of the Android platform in terms of device (variations in components, screen sizes, and resolutions) and operating system," says the iView FAQ.

"Further, formatting content for all of the screen sizes and resolutions is prohibitive. With limited resources, these considerations make it challenging to develop, test, and support these devices."

The main pain point for the ABC, though, seems to be the withdrawal of Flash from the Android platform . Without Flash, the ABC says it is looking for an alternative way to DRM its streams.

"Flash was our solution in the past and Google no longer supports Flash," says the FAQ.

Following this logic, it would appear that Australian Android users looking to view TV shows on their devices are trapped in a Flash-bound purgatory until someone solves the problem of being able to "securely" stream content to Android devices.

It would be a good argument, if there wasn't already a solution. Free market promoters and Tasmanian conservative senators can rejoice in the fact that an organisation backed by News Limited and Telstra have shown the ABC how to do it.

Step up Foxtel Go on the Samsung S3 to prove that it is possible. This app is trapped on select Samsung devices for political reasons, not because the platform itself is lacking.

It's not as though Huawei has stumbled upon a hot issue, though; in March, ZDNet questioned the ABC about its lack of Android support when it updated its flagship ABC app.

On the subject of iOS bias, Mark Dando, head of Online and Mobile for ABC Innovation, said that the organisation prioritises its mobile development resources by the number of visits it receives from each platform.

"Of all the visits to ABC online on mobile devices, 67 percent are using iOS (down from 72 percent a year ago), 20 percent are using Android (up from 13 percent a year ago). All other mobile devices make up 13 percent of visits," Dando said.

Which is a great way to address the issue if you have no app for any platform, but once you have a platform with a decent app, the results start to get skewed in favour of the platform with the app. But despite this positive feedback loop, the national broadcaster is seeing a dip in iOS visits, and an increase in Android visits.

Beyond Huawei's shrillness, the Chinese company could be onto something: Perhaps the ABC does have bias in its mobile platform choices.

One issue that keeps on haunting my use of ABC apps on Android, though, is the amount of crashing and hanging that is encountered on an almost daily basis. In terms of app resiliency, the ABC rates very poorly.

When the iView Android app eventually arrives, I have little reason to doubt that it, too, will suffer from the same issues that plague the ABC app on Android already.

If Huawei wants its users to see an error dialogue from a crashed ABC iView app, it should be more careful of what it wishes for.

Until next time.


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