”Sky Go Desktop”
When using the Sky Go Anytime functionality of the Go website you will be presented with the option to download content you are about to watch. This is where the Go Desktop comes in: it is an offline client for organising and playing all stored programming.
Typically offline clients are more fully featured than their online equivalents, but here the opposite is true. Sky Go Desktop is nothing but a download and playback tool, even the downloads themselves have to be found and initiated from the Go website. There are perks to this approach, however, since downloads can be sent to a computer remotely. For example you can log into the website at work and start content downloading at home (as long as it is switched on with Desktop Go installed).
All content is laced with DRM which means it carries a 30 day expiry date. Some content can be purchased to keep permanently, but again the same problem which plagues the website causes problems on the desktop. For downloaded content the quality simply isn’t good enough. Granted it is less pixelated than streamed channels, but when viewed full screen it remains poor. This is most noticeable during scenes with low light which become almost impossible to follow. This is a shame because, like the web player, the concept is good and the layout intuitive. Sky has messed up what is arguably the easy part.
”’Sky Go iPhone & iPad apps”
Both the Sky Go website and desktop apps suffer from poor quality video so you’d think that would spell doom for mobile devices. Surprisingly the opposite is true. Because the displays on phones are smaller and with more tightly packed pixels the footage can actually look pretty sharp. In particular the Retina display on the iPhone app is beautifully accounted for and a high speed WiFi connection sees video delivered in a pixel density that matches anything you’ll see from HD video on a TV. The iPad also stands up well. Its larger screen means you lose some of the sharpness, but it still puts web and desktop clients to shame.
Better still both apps keep the best parts of their fellow clients meaning layout is slick and intuitive and the iPad in particular makes great use of the extra screen size to enable channel surfing and viewing simultaneously. The downside is both apps have a more limited channel selection than the Sky Go website with just 11 channels available. That said for Sky subscribers they are the crucial ones: all four Sky Sports channels, Sky Sports News, ESPN, Sky News and Sky Movies Premiere, Showcase, Action and Family. As with the website and desktop clients Sky promises more channels will be added soon.
For a service called ‘Sky Go’ it is in some ways fitting the most mobile apps are the best implemented. Yes you will need a WiFi connection for the best screen quality, but the service automatically balances quality and speed so even a mediocre 3G signal (180kbps – 1400kbps recommended) can receive a stream. Of course you will have to watch your data allowance this way and, it should go without saying, EDGE and GPRS signals stand no chance.