A public beta has started for the latest version of the BBC iPlayer desktop download manager which supports Linux, Mac and Windows. This represents a huge, and hugely overdue, move forward for the BBC which previously only allowed Windows users to download programmes using the iPlayer.

The secret is in the air, literally.

The new iPlayer is built upon Adobe AIR, a key component of the Adobe Flash Platform, and the download manager enables users to view BBC TV shows, online or offline, with a high-quality solution across all three operating systems.

Currently it is only available to BBC iPlayer Labs users who need to go sign up to get the beta application, but I am reliably informed it will be rolled out to all BBC iPlayer users during the course of 2009. Start, middle or end of 2009 has not as yet been made clear.

Erik Huggers, director, BBC Future Media & Technology, said: "Since it launched at the end of last year, BBC iPlayer programmes have been available for streaming on Windows, Mac and Linux computers. Today, we're pleased to display our commitment to providing a cross-platform download solution for BBC iPlayer users, as Mac and Linux users are now able to download BBC iPlayer programs to play offline."

Jim Guerard, vice president and general manager of Dynamic Media at Adobe, said: "The BBC is recognised worldwide as a trusted broadcast innovator. The BBC iPlayer Desktop beta on Adobe AIR will help extend their popular browser-based Web video broadcasts to more viewers with a high-quality, instant-on Internet TV experience outside the browser and across all major operating systems."

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I live and breathe technology news, it is what turns me on. Sad, but hey I am a news nerd, what can I say? I live and work in England, where I have been reporting IT news for far more years than I care to remember.