Watching the Olympics on your Mac

As you may have heard, there’s a smallish sporting event going on in China. Despite its humbleness, people seem to be interested in the thing. Some of them use Macs. And some of those Mac users are more that a little peeved that NBC seems unwilling to provide Olympics videos that are compatible with their computers. Such sentiment is nicely distilled by reader Chuck, who writes:

Am I correct is observing that Olympics-related downloads at NBC.com are PC-only? If so, are they nuts?

While I can’t speak directly to NBC’s sanity, given its extended pout over providing content to the iTunes Store, I think we can safely say that while not insane, the people in charge of Internet content certainly bear watching. But questions of corporate lunacy aside, there’s this:

Yes, when you attempt to download videos from NBC’s site, you’ll see this message:

Sorry, NBC Direct currently requires Windows XP (Service Pack 2) or Windows Media Center Edition or Windows Vista.

You can attempt to work around this message by using Safari’s user agent settings under the Develop menu to trick the site into believing that you’re running Internet Explorer. And it works to the point where NBC is willing to offer you a test video, but that video never plays.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t watch NBC’s Olympic content on your Intel Mac, only that you can’t download it. To watch streaming video, go to the NBC Olympic site. Click one of the videos and you’ll be told that you need a copy of Microsoft’s Silverlight browser plug-in—something that’s available in Mac-compatible beta-form from Microsoft. You can get that plug-in by clicking the Click To Install the Free Plugin link.

Silverlight will download and all you need do is install it, restart your browser, return to nbcolympics.com, and enjoy the Olympic highlights streaming to your Intel Mac.

You'll note my repeated use of the term "intel." This works only with Intel Macs. PowerPC Macs and their operators are out of luck.

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