Online Olympics Leave Out iPhones, PowerPC Macs

Friday's opening ceremonies not only marked the beginning of the Summer Olympics from Beijing, China--it also marked the start of NBC's ambitious plans to offer streaming coverage of Olympic events to both computers and mobile devices. NBC, which holds exclusive U.S. broadcast rights to the Games, plans to offer live streaming of more than 2,200 hours on its Web site while posting another 3,500 hours of archived video.

But if you use an iPhone or a PowerPC-based Mac, you'll find yourself shut out of the festivities.

AT&T Wireless, the iPhone's exclusive service provider in the U.S., has also struck a deal to become the exclusive provider of mobile video for the Olympics. The company has a republishing deal with NBC where live competition footage is available to customers of AT&T Mobile TV--a premium content service that costs an additional US$15 to $30 per month on top of existing cell phone plans. But the AT&T Mobile TV service isn't available to iPhone users--it's only compatible with LG Vu and Samsung Access phones at this time. What's more, AT&T Mobile TV service is largely limited only to major urban markets.

As for NBC, its official Olympics Web site offers a media-rich environment with plenty of images, statistics and other information. The site also features video recaps of events and live video coverage as it happens.

NBC has teamed up with Microsoft to enable the live video capabilities--the site leverages Silverlight, Microsoft's streaming media software that the company has positioned as a competitor to Adobe's dominant Flash media software.

Unfortunately, Silverlight doesn't work on the iPhone at all--the software depends on a plug-in technology, like Flash, which isn't compatible with the iPhone's Safari Web browser.

Additionally, Microsoft dropped PowerPC support with the current beta version of Silverlight--beta 2--which now runs only on Intel Macs. As a result, Mac users who want to watch live Olympics video coverage will need an Intel-based Mac.

As for the iTunes Store, where sports fans can find highlights of everything from NASCAR races to last month's Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Olympic highlight packages are a no-show--not surprising, given the year-long feud between NBC and Apple over digital content pricing policies.

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