4oD launches next week: Get a sneak peek today

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4oD, Channel 4’s on-demand service that will make Channel 4’s archive of programmes and films available online, launches on December 6th. However, you can get access to a beta version of the service by signing up at the Channel 4 web site and installing some software on your PC.

Of course, it works in Channel 4’s favour, too, as it gets them some valuable (and free) testing. The invitation reads:

From next week, we are making the best of Channel 4 available on line. So if you have a PC with broadband, you’ll be able to download the best of Channel 4’s programmes and watch them when you want.

Try it first
We know you like video – that’s why we’re giving you the chance to try 4oD before the rest. All you need to do is install it on your PC – just click the link below. It’s still in Beta phase and we’re constantly improving it, so please make sure you send us your feedback.

Now, the drawback if you’re a fan of Mac, open source, or Firefox, is that you’ll be tied in to using the service on a Windows XP PC running Internet Explorer 5.5, 6 or 7, with Windows Media Player 10 or 11. Oh and of course you’ll need broadband.

Their answer to the question: “Will you offer 4oD for the Macintosh?” is answered with this:

Unfortunately not at the launch of 4oD.

This is an industry-wide issue caused because the accepted Digital Rights Management (DRM) system used to protect online video content, which is required by our content owners, is not compatible with Apple Mac hardware and software. The closed DRM system used by Apple is not currently available for licence by third parties and there is no other Mac-compatible DRM solution which meets the protection requirements of content owners. Unfortunately, we are therefore unable to offer 4oD content to Mac users at this stage.

Oh look, DRM raises its ugly head again. This really annoys me. I am sure there are ways of getting content onto the Mac but it’s just too much effort to do it. Funny how Windows Media Player 10 and 11 have both been cracked and yet they’re still considered to ‘meet the protection requirements of content owners’.

Guess it’s back to searching around on YouTube for illegal copies of Channel 4 shows (not that we condone that at Tech Digest, of course) for Mac users who would probably be quite willing to pay for archived content if Channel 4 and the content producers (hmm, hang on, I thought that was Channel 4) could be bothered to accommodate them.

Anyway, if you’re a PC user running IE, you can download the beta software and give 4oD a spin here.

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Andy Merrett