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BBC Signs 'Memo of Understanding' With Microsoft 190

Posted by Zonk
from the buddies-from-across-the-pond dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft has signed a memorandum of understanding with the BBC for 'strategic partnerships' in the development of next-generation digital broadcasting techniques. They are also speaking to other companies such as Real and Linden Labs. Windows Media Centre platform, Windows Live Messenger application and the Xbox 360 console have all been suggested as potential gateways for BBC content. It is unclear how this impacts on existing BBC research projects such as Dirac, although it is understood that the BBC would face heavy criticism if its content was only available via Microsoft products."
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BBC Signs 'Memo of Understanding' With Microsoft

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  • by chrisbtoo (41029) on Friday September 29, 2006 @12:27PM (#16246933) Homepage Journal
    It seems to me that Microsoft are the big winner here. Their attempts to enter the TV market have failed several times, whereas the BBC has been at the forefront of digital TV R&D for years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Microsoft is always the big winner. I don't want to give too much detail but I just attended a conference at which the keynote speaker was supposed to be a guy from microsoft's hospitality division. He was coming on second, after some people from the company holding the conference. Each of them (three I think?) mentioned the Xbox 360 even though it really had no relevance WHATSOEVER to what we were talking about - obviously a blatant Microsoft advertisement. Well the Microsoft guy didn't bother to show up

  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Friday September 29, 2006 @12:32PM (#16247025) Homepage Journal
    Next week, Apple will sign a 'Memo of Screw You' with Microsoft.
  • Dirac... (Score:4, Funny)

    by jginspace (678908) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <ecapsnigj>> on Friday September 29, 2006 @12:33PM (#16247033) Homepage Journal

    It is unclear how this impacts on existing BBC research projects such as Dirac...

    Is this the Dirac project that's being run by the Duke Nukem team?

  • I'd welcome WMA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by onion2k (203094) on Friday September 29, 2006 @12:33PM (#16247037) Homepage
    The sooner the BBC move to a format that isn't RealVideo the better; even WMA would be preferable to RA.
    • Re:I'd welcome WMA (Score:5, Informative)

      by mallardtheduck (760315) <stuartbrockmanNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Friday September 29, 2006 @12:39PM (#16247129)
      Most BBC content is available in both Real and Windows Media formats.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)
        I understand why people have always bashed WMV and RV... but these days, the codecs are very good at high bitrates.

        The first time you watch an avi --> real media variable bitrate reencode (at half the size) you might be in for a surprise.

        Go find a torrent & do your own comparison.
        • The issue is not the quality bit rate or any stuff like that, the issue is WHO owns the pipe between the content and the consumer.

          And forget about the torrent, bbc content will be shipped with DRM'd WMV and yes some people will be able to copy it but most people will sooner or latter be left behind.

          And then it will be Microsoft and/or the FCC that will decide for the BBC.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Yvan256 (722131)

        Most BBC content is available in both Real and Windows Media formats.

        Oh great. So either I install a crappy Real player or a crappy Microsoft player. Or a crappy CODEC for Quicktime that screws up every other app and/or freezes my machine for 30 seconds every time I open a real/windows media file.

        Screw all this, the BBC should simply use the real current standard: H.264 with AAC audio. And don't tell me "that's an Apple-only thing" just because Apple happens to like H.264/AAC.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BiggyP (466507)
      This is horrible news, how exactly is Microsoft DRM a better option than cross platform Real formats? At least Real provide a linux compatible player.
    • I suppose you're right..... even WMA is better than RA, but that's really like saying the frying pan is better than the fire.

      The BBC need to get off their asses and get their video content moved over to a format that is properly cross platform- at the very least Flash video; I know there is trouble with Linux at the moment, but Linux Flash Player v9 should be ready soon.
  • So sitting here with an un-extended freefox (well it's still called firefox for now) Debian-1.5.dfsg+1.5.0.7-1 the zdnet article is blocked out by a "click here to get this plugin" box. Thankfully I get some gifs instead in konqueror where I can read the story just fine. And they coplain when people block ads? Muppets!
  • Issues of access? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 6031769 (829845) on Friday September 29, 2006 @12:41PM (#16247157) Homepage Journal
    From the BBC's own coverage of this story [bbc.co.uk], there is a quote from Mr. Gates himself:

    Bill Gates said: "Microsoft's strength is in driving digital innovation, and our vision is to open up rich, new consumer experiences that allow people to enjoy digital content anytime, anywhere and on any device.

    "This vision fits squarely with the BBC's charter to lead the industry in delivering content that is compelling and accessible."

    It's the last word there which is giving me qualms. Just how does signing agreements with the most proprietary business on earth qualify as extending access?
    • by b0r1s (170449)
      Most proprietary business on Earth? Most businesses have proprietary information, and it's USUALLY in their best interest (read: their stockholders best interest) to maintain that. At least they're not suing everyone who uses the word 'podcast'.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cepayne (998850)
        However pressure may be placed on the BBC to make it difficult,
        or downright impossible for Non-MS software/OS users to partake
        in their media experience. Hasn't history repeated itself enough
        for our generation to catch on to this?

        Microsoft has a bad habit of making other companies proprietary
        to suit their own portfolio.

        This may be all that MS has to grasp on to, once they are out of the
        PC O.S. business. ....except for all those vague U.S. patents.

        Becoming their new business model for the next decade or 3.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by GotenXiao (863190)
      OK, I'll agree with that. Microsoft's strength is driving innovation.

      Because everyone's sick and fucking tired of all the crashes, BSODs, virii and spyware. The privacy invasions help, too.
      • Agreed. That's why I switched to Mac. Now I am sick and fucking tired of the spinning beach ball, lack of any software, and getting sued when I accidentally said "Peapod" out loud last week.
        • by Fred_A (10934)
          [ ... ] and getting sued when I accidentally said "Peapod" out loud last week.
          You did it again !
    • by westlake (615356)
      Just how does signing agreements with the most proprietary business on earth qualify as extending access?

      when that business has a 95% share of the home PC market and a very substantial presence in other consumer markets.

  • Explanation (Score:4, Informative)

    by mallardtheduck (760315) <stuartbrockmanNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Friday September 29, 2006 @12:42PM (#16247185)
    All this means is that BBC content will be available through Microsoft's distribution channels, in addition to the current distribution channels. Hardly newsworthy.
  • There are graveyards of companies that have signed "memos of understanding" with Microsoft.

    Whenever Microsoft gets whatever it signed this agreement to get, probably to stop something potentially competitive, then *something* will go awry that will allow Microsoft to get out of the deal without having giving anything in return.

    Just ask Stac, Burst, Pointcast, Intuit, Apple.....

    • graveyards? (Score:2, Funny)

      by Lactoso (853587)
      "There are graveyards of companies that have signed "memos of understanding" with Microsoft."

      Is this anything like Stephen King's pet cemetary, cause that would be really cool.

      {in creepy, fresh from the grave voice} I'm cooomming to geeettt youuuu Billll Gatteesss...

    • by williamhb (758070)
      There are graveyards of companies that have signed "memos of understanding" with Microsoft.
      Given that the BBC is a publically funded content provider (and not a technology selling business) it would be pretty tough for MS to damage their business model! It appears more akin to the deals Microsoft strikes with universities and governments than to the deals Microsoft strikes with other businesses.
    • by jonbryce (703250)
      Given that the BBC's business model is to send lots of people to your door to harass you until you pay their "licence fee", and they have a government granted monopoly on that; I don't think MS will be putting the Beeb out of business any time soon.
  • how annoying, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joe 155 (937621) on Friday September 29, 2006 @12:43PM (#16247213) Journal
    I pay a hell of a lot of money to the BBC every year*, all I want in return is that all of their digital content to be available through open source technology... this is a step in the wrong direction, or at best a side step. Why can't they also make it work with something like Helix player?

    *which they largely squander on stupidly high pay for the executives whilst sacking many of the people responsible for content - Damn them.
    • by williamhb (758070)

      I pay a hell of a lot of money to the BBC every year*, all I want in return is that all of their digital content to be available through open source technology... this is a step in the wrong direction, or at best a side step. Why can't they also make it work with something like Helix player?

      One reason is that if the BBC does anything that damages commercial interests, it gets into trouble. It is part of the 10-yearly charter review process that the BBC needs to avoid damaging the marketplace. It nearly go

      • If Helix were to become particularly successful and drove Real out of the market, Real would be complaining to the UK government rather quickly about public interference in the marketplace.

        Did you actually mean this? Helix is a player created and maintained by Real. They'd only have themselves to blame if Helix put them out of business...

        • by williamhb (758070)
          Did you actually mean this? Helix is a player created and maintained by Real. They'd only have themselves to blame if Helix put them out of business...
          No I meant Dirac and the free streaming codecs the BBC has been working on (I got the names mixed up for a mo)
    • by evilviper (135110)

      Why can't they also make it work with something like Helix player?

      The Helix player is an empty framework. To make it do much of anything useful, you have to add propritary audio/video codecs.

      Audio is a straight forward, as Vorbis isn't bad, but Video is tough.

      Theora is perpetually unfinished, and it's no better than the decade-old VP3 codec.
      VP3 is extremely CPU-intensive (think: H.264) if you use resolutions that (uncompressed) are larger than your CPU cache... That means VCD resolution MAX for any decent

      • by babbling (952366)
        Any of the patent-free ones. There's no point in having video that is illegal to view.
    • Complain to them. [bbc.co.uk] Ask for Ogg Vorbis/Theora.
  • by From A Far Away Land (930780) on Friday September 29, 2006 @12:45PM (#16247249) Homepage Journal
    I can't wait until television companies start requiring people to install WMP11 to watch their content. WMP11 has a horrendous licensing agreement when it comes to DRM infected downloads and your inability to back them up.
    • by Don_dumb (927108)
      Backing up is a bit of a red herring with the BBC as they only really want their content available for a short while (a matter of around a week). If that was the argument against DRM (&WMP11) then I dont think it would make them reconsider for a second.
      My argument against too much M$ intrusion is that it prevents finding a solution that can run on all platforms. The BBC does have an obligation to make itself as accessible as possible for the licence payer.
      • It doesn't matter if the BBC content isn't made to be backed up, once you upgrade to 11, I doubt you can backtrack to 10 for the rest of your DRM content you may have purchased. Thus they only need to get one killer ap to require WMP11 and they hook you into their [evil] scheme.
  • Who the BBC is (Score:2, Informative)

    by Budenny (888916)
    You need to understand who the BBC is and how it is funded. In the UK it is illegal (it is actually a criminal offense) to watch TV unless you, in effect, subscribe to the UK State Broadcaster. This is done by means of the so called 'license fee' - a license to watch TV, all of the receipts from which go to the BBC.

    As a result, one of the main activities of magistrates courts in the UK is to jail single mothers for not subscribing to the BBC. One conjectures that neither these ladies nor their children h
    • Re:Who the BBC is (Score:5, Insightful)

      by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday September 29, 2006 @01:06PM (#16247639) Journal
      You need to understand who the BBC is and how it is funded. In the UK it is illegal (it is actually a criminal offense) to watch TV unless you, in effect, subscribe to the UK State Broadcaster. This is done by means of the so called 'license fee' - a license to watch TV, all of the receipts from which go to the BBC.

      Actually, it's only illegal to own a receiver on which you receive public broadcasts without paying a license.

      The fee is not small. It is well north of $150 a year. It rises every year, faster than inflation. It is probably one of the most regressive taxes ever devised, and falls most heavily on those who can least afford it.

      You could say the same about road tax. Much like road tax, it is only paid by people who own and use cars on the public roads. However, most of us realise that the roads are a sufficiently useful public service that this is necessary. Many of us also realise that the same applies both to the TV and the radio.

      The BBC also does a very good job of keeping down the number of adverts on commercial TV, too. If you don't believe me, come spend some time over here (the US) and watch some cable (which costs more anually than the license fee). A whole heck of a lot more ads than Channel 5, that's for sure.

      What we in the UK need more than anything is to make subscription to the State Broadcaster optional, and to stop jailing poor people for the crime of wanting to watch some other TV channels, while not subscribing to it.

      It is. Don't pick up broadcasts, and you won't have to pay the tax. Of course you'll be a bit of a hipocrite if you ever listen to one of the BBCs many radio stations, or ever use its website, but it isn't illegal to be a hipocrite without a license.

      And you're also forgetting the final thing. The BBC seems to have the ability to
      piss off the Government more than any other organisation in England. That is a public service which would be cheap at twice the price.
      • by MoogMan (442253)
        The BBC also does a very good job of keeping down the number of adverts on commercial TV, too.

        What you really meant to say is "The BBC do not have commercial advertising on their channels".
      • You could say the same about road tax. Much like road tax, it is only paid by people who own and use cars on the public roads. However, most of us realise that the roads are a sufficiently useful public service that this is necessary. Many of us also realise that the same applies both to the TV and the radio.

        Yes, under the current system, most people want to help fund the BBC. However, tv licences are a very bad way of doing it.

        If taxes are indeed essential, is there any reason not to use means testin
        • Re:Who the BBC is (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Burz (138833) on Friday September 29, 2006 @03:05PM (#16249579) Journal
          Its amazing how many people just don't get it:

          Since an organization's revenue stream will ultimately determine its biases, the BBC is funded independantly of the tax system. Charging a license fee in a "one-viewer-one-vote" fashion avoids conflicts of interest in covering both the private sector and state affairs. This helps dispell greed and political interference in how it goes about its job.

          If the BBC received significant funds from tax revenue, then it would be a state-controlled broadcaster.

          If they scaled the fee according to an individual's means, then their bias would slant toward serving the interests of the wealthy (which is what many anti-licensing activists very badly want).

          A flat fee may not be a good model for many services. But for an organization that is supposed to serve the entire public without bias, to reflec that society which it serves, and to serve as a watchdog, IMO you cannot do better.

          By just being in the wider broadcasting market, they change it for the better.
          • If they scaled the fee according to an individual's means, then their bias would slant toward serving the interests of the wealthy (which is what many anti-licensing activists very badly want).

            How so? People who pay more taxes don't get extra votes. Richer people do benefit from the current politicial system, but only because peerages are proportional to donations.
            • by asuffield (111848)

              People who pay more taxes don't get extra votes.

              People who pay more taxes are richer. Richer people get extra votes (the normal one, plus all the politicians they can afford to bribe/lobby). If the BBC was tax-funded then the "no taxation without representation" thing would come in and the politicans would gain direct control over the BBC (which they do not currently have - the BBC operates under an independent charter, which is very difficult to modify).

              The British public does not want parliament screwing

              • by Burz (138833)
                "The British public does not want parliament screwing up the only broadcaster left who actually cares about their viewers, instead of their advertisers."

                That is not to say they won't ever try to put one over on the British public.

                Here in the USA, we have PBS which is beholden to the federally-funded CPB and is chock-full of sponsorship announcements/ads. The result is a particularly pallid, toothless news bureau. We occassionally see informative and critical programming in the form of NOW or Frontline, but
              • no taxation without representation
                It's pretty much a tax right now, and I get no explict representation. Saying that if we made it means-tested, we'd need to have proportional representation doesn't follow.

                Richer people get extra votes
                While this does tend to occur in Republics, it's not like someone gets extra votes for every £10k extra they earn. Bribery is reserved to the extremely rich, and it most likely goes on right now, even with the BBC. Bias is something that is very easy to create.
    • by crush (19364)
      t is actually a criminal offense) to watch TV unless you

      It's actually stronger than that AFAIK: you need to pay a license fee if you own equipment for receiving television signals. Doesn't matter if you swear blind that you never switch it on or that it's for research purposes etc.
    • Re:Who the BBC is (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Abcd1234 (188840) on Friday September 29, 2006 @01:11PM (#16247731) Homepage
      The fee is not small. It is well north of $150 a year. It rises every year, faster than inflation. It is probably one of the most regressive taxes ever devised, and falls most heavily on those who can least afford it.

      Dude. That's *12* dollars a month... 12 dollars! And it's on a f'ing luxury (yes, TV is a luxury... if you're a single mother who can't spare $12/month, you've got other problems and should probably just sacrifice the damn TV). In exchange, you have world-class media coverage on multiple formats, and online content that's only just being seen in other countries, and most of it without commercials! Seriously, you don't understand how great you have it.

      If the alternative is that I have to pay more money for crappier content *and* have to watch 20 minutes of commercials per hour... I'll pay the damn $12, thank you very much.
      • by crush (19364)
        I'm with you. Having seen the difference between BBC content and the crap available here I think the results are in: state-funded broadcasting works better and costs less.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Burz (138833)
          I'm with you. Having seen the difference between BBC content and the crap available here I think the results are in: state-funded broadcasting works better and costs less.

          The BBC isn't state-funded. It's a public corporation funded by a flat amount that each viewer pays in the form of a license fee.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ma8thew (861741)
      Parent comment is at best, biased, bordering on lies. For a start, you cannot go to prison for evading the license fee, the punishment is a £1000 fine. Secondly, although growing slightly above inflation, it has only gained £11.50 since 1968, which is fair enough IMO, considering the Internet content and 4 extra TV channels added since then, as well as several Radio channels (the fee pays for radio programming on the BBC as well). Thirdly the BBC is actually the Third largest magazine publisher
    • by garyok (218493)
      Nice libertarian rant - I'm sure you could make the case that every tax is unjust. You shouldn't be charged with a criminal offence for not paying your income tax because you didn't get a heart transplant on the NHS this year, should you? Why should you pay for schools when you're in full-time employment and have no kids? Or pay for the police when you didn't commit any crimes? Or... well, the list goes on. The problem with that way of thinking is it's bollocks. What you're paying for is the safety net, the
      • by jonbryce (703250)
        My complaint is that I have chosen not to own a TV. This doesn't stop TV Licencing from harassing me. They simply won't take no for an answer.

        Now, I return all mail from them unopened, and when they arrive at my door, I inform them that I am withdrawing their implied licence to stand on my door step, and that unless they have a court warrant, they should leave immediately. There is no point in being nice to them.
    • by Ajehals (947354)
      Mod the above flame bait.

      As a result, one of the main activities of magistrates courts in the UK is to jail single mothers for not subscribing to the BBC. One conjectures that neither these ladies nor their children have the slightest interest in watching the BBC, but they will pay for it anyway, and if not, go to jail.

      That paragraph is laughable, if you own a TV you must pay for a TV license, its a bit like a tax, but only applied to people who can afford a TV and want to make use of that "luxury", you can

    • Whilst I agree it is ridiculous that the UK courts hand out severe sentences for non-payment of the license fee, I disagree with you on just about every point you raise.

      As a British citizen, I consider the BBC to be one British thing we can be very proud of. From a TV-only perspective, about 10% of what the BBC broadcast is of interest to me personally (I'm a Dr Who/sci-fi/documentary/drama fan with no interests in sport) but I also listen to a lot of BBC radio, especially Radio 4 for comedy and drama sho

    • I'm sorry, but if the alternative is Fox News, I'll pay the bloody license fee and be damned happy with it. Seriously, the BBC is well worth it. It appears most Americans on Slashdot would kill to have what we have.

      In fact, IMHO, Radio 4 is worth the license fee in itself.
  • I've read the article (pretty short actually) and this "memo" kind of reminds me of "No Technical Objection" letters I've written and received from time to time. They authorize nothing and they imply no committment. In the end, it's just a way to go back to our customer with, "yea, we discussed this with {company} and they seem OK with it. See? they ever signed a memo."

    Almost doesn't seem like news.
  • Linden Labs means Second Life [secondlife.com], which could mean some VERY interesting things in the near-future of broadcasts. I know a number of events organised by news studios and bands have already taken place inworld, but this sounds a lot more solid than the minor contracts before. Screw Microsoft, I wanna see the BBC go virtual.
  • or if the memo was signed in Georgia.
  • Unless you want to infect your system with realplayer, it already is. I think you still need windows DLLs to listen to their internet radio on linux. So much for "public service".
  • per year. that's the Beeb's intellectual property contribution ;)

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