Wednesday, November 18, 2009

iplayer now available on Wii!

Just got home from work and started up the Wii to complete the daily weigh, and I had a message waiting for me. It was from those strange anonymous bods at Nintendo who let you know when there's something new, or an update, available to download.

Today it's the new BBC iplayer channel.

The Wii's internet channel was reduced in price to nothing at all a little while ago, but from the offset things weren't quite right. For me, one of the biggest promises of the Wii's internet capabilities was being able to watch BBC TV prgramming that I'd missed when it was aired*. This was a promise that was broken, and my faith in the system damaged somewhat.

But now Nintendo and the BBC have not simply fixed the internet channel / iplayer disagreement, but have actually bundled iplayer into its own dedicated channel. This means that, once downloaded, iplayer is available directly from the Wii's channel screen without having to faff around with going into the internet channel and then spending time or bother navigating.

As I type, I'm testing it out using something from the other night that I meant to watch but forgot about: Alan Davies' Horizon program "How long is a piece of string?"**

First impressions
A link in the original message took me straight to the relevant download page. The download itself was free, and took around 2 1/2 minutes to complete. Back to the Wii channel screen (that's the first thing you see when you start the Wii), and the BBC iplayer channel had been installed.

Starting the iplayer up from here was simple, just the same as any other channel. It took longer to load than other channels, but this makes sense to me as it isn't just relying on the local machine, but downloading information over the internet as well.

The result was a player that looks very much like the BBC's website version, with small differences to make it easier to use with the Wiimote.

I found the program I was after fairly quickly, selected it, and its info player loaded. A nice big 'watch this now' button later, and the show was buffering. It wasn't too long at all before the show started playing.

It has been playing for 25 minutes or so now, with no jumps or stops for buffering, and the visual quality, whilst definitely less than I'd see watching a television program as it is aired is actually not bad when you consider that the Wii is not a high definition console: it's perfectly watchable on my 42" TV, so it can only look better on a smaller screen.

* I am both busy and forgetful whilst also not being the kind of person to watch much telly. Which means the few things that I want to watch, I usually miss.
** It's very good, actually, and recommend a viewing if you read this in time. But I am saying that from the point of view of a mathematician with an interest in physics, and an obsession with astronomy.