Sky+ HD Multi-Room Shared Planner

I got some anonymous information last night from a friend about a service Sky are considering introducing here in the UK.

The service looks as if it’s going to be called Sky+ HD Multi-Room Shared Planner – What a mouthful.

The premise of it is that you have multiple Sky+ HD boxes in your house, and you can share recorded TV amongst those boxes throughout your house. The service also touts that you will be able to connect to your Sky+ HD boxes via your PC and access that content also.

 

In addition I got sent a screenshot (follows)

SkyMultiroomShared

The screenshot shows that all of the Sky boxes are still connected to the main satellite dish via those big black co-axial cables and no less than two per box of course, and that the PC is connecting to the Sky boxes via wireless.

This suggests one of two things:

  1. Wireless Adapter for Sky+ HD boxes is on the way.
  2. Sky+ HD boxes with integrated wireless on the way.

There is no way Sky are going to be able to achieve this with the current boxes because I’m someone out there would have noticed a wireless chipset on the motherboard if there had been one.

According to the source the video touted another installation mode whereby the PC is also attached to the satellite dish, I would presume via some Pre-00’s standard co-axial network card, however I didn’t get a screenshot of this one.

Personally the latter sounds kind of stupid because it means that wireless clients like laptops wouldn’t be able to access the service.

Based on what Sky are currently doing with Sky Player I would expect that the PC experience will be much the same using the Silverlight and Play Ready technologies for DRM and streaming which is a good combination.

Here is an excerpt from the online source that I got given:

Buy one Sky+HD PVR and as many Sky+HD set top boxes as you like
All boxes can set up recordings and series link
You can view all Planner content anywhere in the home – record in one room, and watch in another.

All sounding not too bad I think, but then I got some word on pricing also.

Pricing

£10 per month for the HD Package
£10 per month for the Multi-Room subscription

Engineer installation for £30
Self installation for £60

Sounds dumb huh. The whole idea of a self installation is that it’s free or cheaper at least because they don’t need to provide you with an engineer but apparently Sky don’t work like that.

Whilst this all sounds very good for Sky, I can see some problems:

Repeated Reference to Sky Broadband

My source tells me that the piece had Sky Broadband mentioned left, right and centre which concerns me, because knowing Sky as I do, I fear that they will make Sky Broadband a requirement for this service when there is no reason for this to be open to anyone with broadband.

Moreover, there isn’t even a real reason why you would need broadband. My only assumption is that they would introduce some kind of On Demand video streaming service. Sky have lagged a long way behind Virgin Media in terms of on-demand content and using the Internet would be the perfect answer for Sky to this.

Monthly Fee

£10 per month for Multi-Room – You can get this for free with a Windows Media Center PC and an Xbox 360 as a Media Extender.

No Backup

It’s bad enough if one Sky box goes boom and you loose your recorded content but once you start making that content more readily available it becomes higher demand, so the need for backup. I would be gutted if our Sky+ hard disk went pop. Windows Media Center allows you to backup your recorded TV because it’s a standard Windows machine. If you where using Windows Home Server as well it would do automatically at the end of each recording too.

Cloud Based Access

I love Windows Mobile, and lots of people love iPhones. If your going to make the recorded TV available like this around the home, why stop there. I should be able to access a cloud based service where I can stream my recorded TV to my phone on the move, or maybe my PC at work via a browser.

Satellite Cable

I hate satellite cable, I really do. It’s thick and annoying. Sure it’s more reliable that a wireless connection of some kind, but I wish Sky would look forwards and consider using Ethernet.

The cable is cheaper because it is so ubiquitous in modern times, can carry Gigabit, is thinner and lighter than satellite cable and generally a better all-rounder.

The Rest of My Media

Sky think they are the top of the pile and the most important thing, and as a result they miss out on things which are otherwise important to people: Pictures, Video and Music.

If your going to have a wireless enabled product and your going to share it around the house, why not make it DLNA compatible and allow me to share this media with other devices like the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox.

The Xbox argument could be entirely plausible being that Sky and Xbox have come together to give us Sky Sports on the Xbox, but it’s still missing things.

On my network at home, I have PC’s which have pictures, music and videos on them. I even have ripped copies of films for backup and streaming. I should be able to access all my media in one place at one time and that means Sky letting me listen to my music over my wireless via my Sky box.

I know this won’t happen as part of this product, but I’d sure like to see it.

Conclusion

In a way it’s hard for me to open up and say this is a great product. Sure it is and it will do wonders for the UK market in terms of media availability due to the market penetration of Sky, however it doesn’t detract from the fact that the UK is still lagging compared to Europe and the US because of Sky’s insistence to use closed and private technologies and opposed to nice open standards and technologies like Windows Media Center.

In a previous posting of mine about Sky and the possibility of them launching a Media Center USB tuner http://richardjgreen.net/index.php/2009/08/11/sky-hd-for-windows-media-center-a-possible-reality/, it looks this won’t happen after all as nothing came of it at CEDIA, and this Multi-Room Shared Planner product has a lot of overlap with the features of Media Center – Just executed as well.

richardjgreen

Richard works as a Cloud Consultant for Fordway Solution where his primary focus is to help customers understand, adopt and develop with Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and System Center. Richard Green is an IT Pro with over 15 years' of experience in all things Microsoft including System Center and Office 365. He has previously worked as a System Center consultant and as an internal solutions architect across many verticals. Outside of work, he loves motorbikes and is part of the orange army, marshaling for NGRRC, British Superbikes and MotoGP. He is also an Assistant Cub Scout Leader.