The BBC today launched their second desktop widget built using Flex and deployed on AIR to deliver updated news coverage from the Olympics and to provide desktop alerts for when Olympic events are starting.
Following on from the beta launch of BBC LiveUpdate two weeks ago (which was released whilst I was on holiday, so I’ll link you to Serge Jespers for details of that application), the BBC Sport “Monkey Widget” is an integral part of the BBC’s coverage for the 2008 Olympics, alongside their website, interactive TV, broadcast and mobile outputs.
Once downloaded and installed (which is made really easy by the use of the AIR installer badge on their site), you can customize the application to use one of three cartoon characters the BBC have designed for their Olympics coverage and select up to 5 different sports that you want to follow, alongside general news stories from the Olympics.
The BBC’s use of AIR really demonstrates the advantages that Adobe’s platform provides – firstly, unlike previous BBC desktop widgets which were Windows-only, these applications work on Mac and Windows (and soon Linux, although you can try to run the application today using the alpha version of AIR for Linux), and secondly AIR has allowed the BBC’s existing web designers and developers, using technologies they already know, like Flash and Flex, to build and deploy these desktop applications internally, something they previously had to rely upon third parties with specialist skills for.
Whilst taking about the BBC’s Olympics coverage, it’s worth noting that live video from the Olympics will be available through the BBC website, with a choice from up to seven video streams simulcast from BBC TV; highlights from each day’s action will be available through the BBC’s iPlayer service. All the video content will be streamed using Flash Player, but will only be available in the UK due to distribution rights.
It’s really great to see the rapid innovation coming out of the BBC using Flash, Flex and AIR – I look forward to seeing what they do next with AIR!