BBC Sport iPhone, Android, desktop and connected TV pictures and hands-on
The Olympics is coming. Many will be glued to the TV watching as Usain Bolt goes for another world record. Others might be on the edge of their seats as Jamaica's bobsleigh team crashes out dramatically … no wait, that's a movie and the Winter Olympics.
Seriously though, there is going to be a whole lot of TV watching to do. The BBC knows this and has outdone itself in ensuring that every single licence-payer can watch Olympians compete somewhere and on some sort of device. Bear with us on this one because there's a lot to get through.
First, an app for connected TVs based around what we have seen from BBC Sport on TiVo. Think of the application a bit like iPlayer on the Xbox with a similar tile-based UI. Live feeds of various sports are offered and can be clicked and streamed instantaneously.
There is also a coming-up section, which shows what to expect from the BBC's coverage of the event. The feeds are curated, so the Beeb will be populating the home page with what it thinks you might want to watch.
There will be up to 24 live streams of events going on at once, ensuring that it is impossible to miss out on any event. You can theoretically watch every single part of the Olympics live using just the connected TV app alone, all of it in HD of course.
At the moment the application is going to be running on Sony smart TVs, Virgin Media TiVo via the red button and the PlayStation 3 via an app. No Xbox sadly. From what we were shown, the experience will be identical across each of the players, although obviously controlled differently.
It was very smooth and quick to load streams of the various BBC channels. A carousel of live streams can also be popped up while video is playing in the background, should you want to switch sports.
Next up is the desktop browser-based BBC Sports. This is where the real beef of the BBC's digital tech lies. A proper 3.5Mb HD video feed is available, if your broadband connection can handle it, the player simply defaulting to it once you send it full screen.
The newly designed video player has also had a much more robust and formidable skin placed on it compared to what iPlayer currently offers. This means you can do things such as switch to highlights packages with a single click or change sports instantaneously.
Amazingly you can even rewind live coverage just like you would with Sky+ or Virgin Media. It is also possible to scan through chapter markers which show key moments in an event - say a gold medal win, for example. Live data and stats will all be pumped into the desktop player so you can learn a bit about the sport while you watch it. These can be switched off if you just want to view the event.
On the mobile, the desktop site has been slimmed down but still provides a similar experience. Just as on the computer, every single athlete and sport will be given its own web page with self-populating news feeds.
The BBC has even announced a feature phone version of the site which will show just low-res images and basic text news stories so you can keep up with the core of what's going on. We weren't shown that.
But the real Olympic treat comes in the BBC Sport app, which is one of the best thought-out applications we have seen in a long time. Just like in the iPad music player, you can drag and drop various items to a quick select bar at the bottom. Except that instead of being music or artists, it is the names of sports. The result is an instantly customisable way of keeping track of your favourite athletes.
A news-based home page can download content and store it locally offline, should you get on the Tube or go out of an area of reception. There is also the ability to switch to live video straight from within the application. Medal tables based on country are also shown, as is a range of other stats.
Unfortunately, application-based content isn't going to be running in HD, nor will it be matching the display resolution of the new iPad, although the BBC did tell us this was something it was looking into for future events.
All this specially designed Olympics kit is also an important deal for the BBC in terms of future plans on the mobile and connected TV. It could mean a redesigned iPlayer, a new way of handling live events and different ways of covering sports. Wimbledon Tennis and the Formula One, for example, will both be getting connected TV coverage using the same app.
There are all sorts of other uses of course, with the BBC telling Pocket-lint: “You don't need to be a genius to work out that Glastonbury would be a good example.”
In the meantime keep those eyes peeled for all the new BBC Olympic tech, which should be launching in the months before the Games.
Like the sound of the new apps? Let us know in the comments below ...