Sky+


Sky+

Infobox_Company
company_name = Sky+
company_type = Public
foundation = 2001
location = London, United Kingdom
key_people = James Murdoch (Chairman)
Jeremy Darroch (CEO)
industry = Digital video recorders
homepage = [http://www.sky.com]

Sky+, or Sky Plus, is a personal video recorder (PVR) service for Sky Digital, and is very similar in principle to the TiVo service (which is no longer sold in the UK due to Sky+ dominating the market). Launched in September 2001, Sky+ allows the user to record, pause and instantly rewind live TV. The system performs these functions using an internal hard drive inside the Sky+ set top box. Its chief competitors in the UK market are the developing non-subscription PVR market, including Freeview+, and Virgin Media's V+, which has 3 tuners and a 160 GB hard drive. Sky reported in February 2008 that over 3 million households now have a Sky+ box.

The £10 per month subscription fee was discontinued for subscribers from 1 July 2007, but will continue for Freesat from Sky use. [cite web|url=http://www.ukfree.tv/fullstory.php?storyid=1107051248|title=Sky+ ten quid monthly fee abolished - ukfree.tv - independent digital TV and switchover advice|accessdate=2007-05-22]

Technical information

*Combined digital satellite receiver/decoder and personal video recorder (PVR).
*Twin digital satellite tuners – Allows simultaneous recording/viewing or recording of 2 channels at once.
*The set-top box middleware is provided by OpenTV, but the EPG and all the software extensions that manage the PVR functions are produced by NDS under the name of [http://www.nds.com/personal_tv/personal_tv.html XTV PVR] .
* Sky+ has its own electronic programme guide made by Sky. From here, users can see what programmes are on in the next seven days. The current EPG software version (as of May 2007) is Sky+ 5.02.f.

Versions

There are 3 versions of Sky+:
* Sky+ 40 GB ("Discontinued") – First Version of Sky+. An average of twenty hours recording time. The first generation of boxes (referred to as a PVR1s within Sky) were manufactured exclusively by Pace for the UK Market. The second generation of 40 GB boxes (referred to as PVR2s), were manufactured by both Amstrad and Pace.
* Sky+ 160 GB ("Discontinued") – Sky+ 160 has an average of eighty hours recording time.Fact|date=May 2007 Sky+ 160 was manufactured by Thomson only for the UK market.
* Sky+ 80 GB – Now officially and colloquially referred to as Sky+, this third generation of box (PVR3) are manufactured by Altech UEC, Pace, Amstrad and Thomson. Launched in September 2005 as standard Sky+ box, the box has an average of forty hours recording time. The drive has a 160 GB hard drive installed, however half of this (80 GB) is "reserved for use by the Sky Anytime TV service". The box is known internally at Sky as a PVR3 or Sky + 80/80.

Although the different generations of Sky+ box look similar, they have minor external differences (viewing card positions etc.) and significant internal differences. By December 2005, Sky+ 80 GB boxes manufactured by Pace, Amstrad and Thomson were being installed. Many people have reported various problems with the different boxes. A persistent complaint is that early Amstrad 80 GB models are noisy in operation. The Amstrad models also reportedly display a more jerky image when in 30x fast forward and rewind. According to many posters on DigitalSpy the Pace and Thomson variants are preferred. However, other posters maintain that the reliability of all makes is statistically similar and that there are good and bad boxes from all three manufacturers.

ky+ remote

A typical Sky+ remote control is similar to a typical Sky Digital remote, but provides controls for the extra features, e.g. rewinding the programme, record, play or pause, fast forward and stopping playback of the programme. The Sky+ remote is silver coloured or beige for the early remotes issues with 40GB Boxes (like the set top box) rather than the dark blue of the normal Sky remote. The Sky+ remote uses entirely different codes to a standard Sky Digital remote control and so is, by default, incompatible with it. This is probably intentional, as some homes will have two subscriptions and would not want the risk of the controls operating the wrong equipment. However, the Sky+ handset can unofficially be programmed to control a digibox and indeed even Home A/V Centres and amplifiers. From July 2007, All Sky+ remotes (Version 10 onward) will have blue buttons, rather than the standard green. Sky HD remotes can also be configured to work Sky+ boxes, though configuring then to control a TV set still requires HD code numbers.

Remote recording

In July 2006 Sky added remote recording functionality to Sky+ which enables customers to schedule recordings when they are away from home via a mobile telephone. Programmes can be added to the planner either by downloading an application to the mobile phone, called 'Sky By Mobile', or by sending as SMS with details of the programme name, time, date and channel. In February 2007, Sky added remote recording via the sky.com website, so customers can program their STB from any web browser using an EPG similar to that found on the Sky+ system.

ky Anytime TV service

On January 2, 2007, Sky announced plans to release a service, named Sky Anytime to Sky+ subscribers. The service is a "Push-Video on Demand" (push-VoD) system similar to Top Up TV Anytime, where the Sky+ PVR automatically records programmes transmitted over-night. [cite web|url=http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/digitaltv/a42296/feature-sky-anytime-tv-preview.html|title=Satellite - News - Feature: Sky Anytime TV preview - Digital Spy|accessdate=2007-05-22] The service, will be available to over 2 million Sky+ subscribers, using reserved space on the PVR's hard drive.

The service works as a catch-up service for the best programmes of the week. [cite web|url=http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/article/ds41231.html|title=Broadcasting - News - Sky+ tops 2 million mark - Digital Spy|accessdate=2007-05-22] The service was to launch some time in March 2007, it is available to owners of Sky HD and most Sky+ boxes. [cite web|url=http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/satellite/a44447/sky-anytime-tv-unveiled-on-hd-boxes.html|title=Satellite - News - Sky Anytime TV unveiled on HD boxes - Digital Spy|accessdate=2007-05-22]

Other countries

Altech UEC, based in South Africa, are the exclusive manufacturers of the Sky+ box Sky Digital Plus in Latin America. Currently the Sky+ box is the second generation PVR with a 160GB HDD as a standard and proven to be a very stable PVR.

Criticism

Criticswho? argued that it is too expensive and were unconvinced of the need for or reliability of the product. Indeed, take-up of the service was slow, with little take-up, perhaps due to equally little advertising, in its first two years on the market. However, as the price fell and awareness grew thanks to much increased advertising, the Sky+ roll-out accelerated. BSkyB spent upward of £20 million advertising the new service. In 2004 Sky began to waive the service fee to customers who were subscribers of their premium sport and/or movie channels. Sky+ is also built into Sky HD digiboxes and PVR functionality comes free with an HD subscription.

A number of hackers have attempted to improve the basic Sky+ unit, primarily through the installation of larger hard drives; instruction manuals and toolkits to do this are widely available. Installing a larger hard drive in the unit is no harder than in a normal PC, but the Sky+ receiver is sensitive to the type of disk installed. Disks with low power requirements and fast spin up times are most likely to be compatible. Some users report problems with very large (360 GB+) hard disks in operation of the Amstrad software; the most commonly reported issue is slowing of menu browsing.

References

External links

* [http://www.sky.com/skyplus Sky Plus] at sky.com
* [http://www.sky.com.br Sky Brazil] at sky.com.br
* [http://www.sky.com/skyplus Sky Plus] at sky.com
* [http://www.pace.com/corporate/home/index.asp Pace - makers of the sky+ box]
* [http://existing.sky.com/about.asp How Sky+ works, animated feature]
* [http://www.morlocks.co.uk/sky.htm Everything Sky+ including how to upgrade the hard disk]
* [http://www.skycopyplus.co.uk Free Copy+ software allowing you to copy your Sky hard disk (whether Sky+ or Sky HD to a new, upgraded one]
* [http://www.xtendedplay.co.uk Sky+ & Sky HD Hard Drive Upgrade Kits]
* [http://www.astra2d.com/sky+2.htm Sky+ Upgrade Guide]


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