Tablet streaming options abound as London 2012 Olympics near

TORONTO — Gadget fiends who can’t bear to be without their tablet or smartphone — and perhaps feel like they can’t remember life without them — may find it hard to believe that the London Olympics will be the first of the iPad era.When Clara Hughes carried the Canadian flag at the opening ceremonies of Vancouver’s Winter Olympics on Feb. 12, 2010, the game-changing iPad was still about two months away from being launched. In fact, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs had just unveiled the tablet during a press event only two weeks earlier.So it’ll be interesting to watch how Canadians take in the Games this time around, now that so many of us are carrying around a large screen capable of streaming live video anywhere we go.“I remember having a discussion in the fall of 2009 with our digital folks and basically (tablets) were just coming on the radar,” said Adam Ashton, president of Canada’s Olympic broadcast media consortium.[np-related]“These Games will really be the first where we see the power of tablets and smartphones. … Around the world, these Games are already being dubbed the digital Games.”For the Vancouver Games, Canadians could catch live TV coverage across a number of channels but also had the option of watching online on their computers. Some viewers took to watching TV with a laptop nearby, either to follow multiple events or to use the computer to display stats and social media chatter.There was also a mobile phone streaming option available for Bell customers, with several live channels available to view on the go. But it was early days for mobile video back then and it wasn’t common to see people using the feature in public.“The novelty of it at the time amazed people,” said Nicolas Poitras, vice-president of marketing at Bell.“Obviously it was at the beginning of this (mobile video) trend and we did not expect huge consumption. But we were pleasantly surprised by how many people actually tried it out in 2010.“2010 was really introducing the innovation and 2012, I think, is making it even better. And I think it’s going to be consumed in a much greater fashion than it was in 2010.”There are two different mobile apps for smartphones and tablets that Canadians can use to stream live video during the Olympics.The free CTV Olympics London 2012 app, which will be available for Android, Apple, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 devices, will stream live coverage and video highlights, and will also include results, schedules, news and social media integration. The app will only stream video over Wi-Fi and not over mobile networks.Bell has the exclusive rights to offer video streaming over mobile networks and is charging $5 a month for 10 hours of viewing, per device. A Bell spokesman said some users might have to pay for two months of service for the Olympics package, since the $5 fee is based on each user’s billing cycle. For example, if a user’s billing cycle refreshs on the first of the month they’d have to pay $5 twice — once to start viewing video when the Games begin on July 27 and a second time to watch content from Aug. 1 through Aug. 12.Like in 2010, the broadcast media consortium will stream all its Olympics coverage at and for free. Archived competitions and highlights packages will also be available on demand for viewers who can’t watch the action live.While Twitter and Facebook have been around for years, social media is expected to be bigger than ever during these Games. The Canadian Olympic Committee is maintaining a list of tweeting Olympians, past and present, (!/CDNOlympicTeam/canadian-athletes/members) which includes the likes of Donovan Bailey (@donovanbailey), Alexandre Despatie (@ADespatie), Adam van Koeverden (@vankayak), Silken Laumann (@SilkenLaumann), Marnie McBean (@MarnieMcB), Kyle Shewfelt (@kyleshew) and Canada’s opening ceremonies flagbearer Simon Whitfield (@simonwhitfield).This post was updated to correct pricing information in paragraph 13.