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Android apps delayed by Adobe and fragmentation, says BBC

We ask the BBC's Daniel Danker why Auntie's Android apps are released later than their iOS counterparts.

Today the BBC launched iPlayer Radio, a central online location for streaming its radio stations live and on-demand. An accompanying iOS app is already live, but the Android equivalent is still in production.

Does the BBC not care about Google's adorable robot and its legions of its adoring fans? I sat down with Daniel Danker, the BBC's general manager of programmes and on-demand, to ask why Android fans are forced to wait.

The waiting game

The delay for the Android iPlayer Radio app is down to Flash support, or a lack thereof, Danker explains. "We've migrated to Adobe Air on iPlayer for our television products," he says. "Radio, interestingly, introduces some new challenges, and the most obvious is background audio."

It turns out getting an app that uses Adobe Air to play sound in the background is easier said than done. "You expect to be able to leave the app and continue listening while browsing the web or checking your email," Danker notes.

"We actually started both of the apps at the same time," the Beeb exec says. Danker's confident the Android app is coming soon, but concedes, "we have a couple more hurdles to jump".

Does the BBC care about Android?

Technical wobbles are one thing, but the BBC has come under fire in the past for bringing new apps and services to iOS first, while the Android platform is left waiting, and its users fuming. I asked Danker how he would respond to claims that the BBC doesn't care as much about Android.

"Well," Danker says, laughing, "We've spent more cycles thinking about Android than any other platform lately.

"Obviously we treat the platform with superbly high priority or we wouldn't have done the work to get where we have got, but there are very real challenges."

Danker explains that one of those challenges is fragmentation -- the issue that Android devices come with a range of screen resolutions, processors and software versions.

"The fragmentation of devices has been a challenge, they all work a little bit differently," Danker says. "You'll notice that not everybody upgrades on Android at the same rate.

"The most popular Android operating system in production today is version 2.2, which is several releases back, and so that fragmentation's introduced more of a challenge." Google's figures show 2.3 Gingerbread is the most popular worldwide, but the BBC's own figures may be different.

"We aren't the only ones experiencing it," Danker says, before claiming that the BBC works "very closely" with Google to puzzle out development difficulties, "but it's one of the realities of the Android platform today."

I asked when Android fans could expect to see the iPlayer Radio app. "I try not to predict these things because when it's down to just one or two remaining issues it really just comes down to how quickly the teams are able to deliver them," Daniel says, "But it's our singular focus now, having launched."

My impression from talking to Danker is that the BBC does care about Android -- and it should, considering that Google's operating system is ahead of Apple's own in terms of number of users -- but that Google's platform introduces development hold-ups that iOS doesn't, hence the delays.

But could the Beeb be doing more for its Android-powered fans? Are you satisfied by Danker's words, or would you like to see more action taken? Transmit your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook wall.

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