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Sky Player: Sounds like iPlayer

If you can't live for a moment without Sky, head over to its Web site and get a Sky Player account, which will let you watch movies, sport and live news on a PC

We've had the BBC iPlayer for some time now, and for many people, it's changed the way they watch TV, allowing them to watch things they hadn't considered before, or simply catch up on the latest episode of Dragons' Den. Sky clearly sees the massive potential market for this among its millions of subscribers, so it has a similar product called Sky Player, which it has just opened up to non-subscribers.

To give Sky credit, it was the first to bring PC downloads of its shows to Internet users. Its initial offering, known as Sky Anytime, launched in January 2006, a full year before 4oD and almost two years before the BBC finally got iPlayer out of beta and into a publicly useable service. All of these platforms use the same basic software, a P2P application known as Kontiki, but each offer different levels of content.

Sky Player has the usual selection of free-to-download and pay-per-view content. Newer stuff is generally chargeable, whereas older things often come 'free', or more accurately, included in your Sky package. The good news is if you aren't a Sky customer you can now take advantage of the system, but you'll have to pay. Generally TV shows are £1 per episode and there's a sports highlights pack for £5 a month. There aren't any movies available to non-subscribers, but that might change in the future, according to the Sky Player Web site.

What makes Sky Player particularly cool is the addition of live streaming, which is the one thing missing from other services. Live TV is available to all Sky subscribers, but obviously you'll need to subscribe to premium channels such as Sky Sports to be able to view them online. Rumours suggest that the BBC will stream its channels live at some point, but the audience for that is so massive that many of the UK's ISPs are going to have a blue fit when it happens.

We have to say that the picture quality of the Sky Player's streaming content was excellent. We watched some of Knocked Up and Die Hard 4.0 and were really impressed by the quality of the stream. Sure, it's not quite DVD quality, but it's very watchable.

So, is there anything wrong with it? The first and most irritating restriction is that you can only install the required software on one PC. It's obvious why Sky restricts this, but it's not apparent how you would switch the software to a new PC if you upgrade, or reinstall Windows. Kontiki doesn't earn our love either -- it's as hard to get rid of as rabies and it can hammer your Internet connection, which could be bad news if you're on a strict bandwidth cap. We'd also love it if you could stream Sky Player content to a TV, but unless you've got a laptop hooked up to your telly, you're out of luck here. –Ian Morris