April 02, 2009

Sling Media Slings Bull at Slingbox Faithful

Greetings. Sling Media, purveyors of the popular Slingbox line of devices that stream home television or other video/audio sources over the Internet, have just slung a smelly slug of excrement at their loyal customers and fans.

Slingboxes permit users to quickly and easily stream content from -- and pretty fully remotely control -- their home cable boxes, TiVos, and the like. Because it's a hardware-based solution, it has proven much easier to use than free software-based systems such as Orb (which require capture cards and significant CPU resources) for many users, this despite Sling's move to encrypted data streams that shut out "unofficial" player applications.

While the primary modality of Slingbox usage is streaming to specialized programs and embedded Web players (which have been included with the cost of the device), a big attraction of Slingbox has been its mobile apps -- such as the Slingbox player for Windows Mobile cell phones -- which actually works remarkably well, even at quite low, non-3G speeds. Even though this is an extra-cost item, it has proven to be very popular.

For months now in the Slingbox world, anticipation has been riding high in anticipation of an iPhone version of the Slingbox mobile app, and speculation has been rampant that an Android version (e.g., for the HTC/Google G1 cell phone) is also in the works.

But now comes word from Sling -- not an April Fools' joke unfortunately -- that the iPhone app will only be compatible with new model (mostly HD-oriented) Slingboxes, and that owners of existing models will be out in the cold.

Many Slingbox owners are livid, and it's easy to see why. We already know that Sling streams will play just dandy at low speeds, even into limited architectures like Windows Mobile. To allow for backwards compatible streaming of standard definition video into the mobile applications for the iPhone or other mobile platforms simply cannot be a rocket science level project.

So there is only one likely reason that Sling Media is going down this non-backwards-compatible path -- simple greed.

The first indications of Sling Media's greedy nature surfaced when they locked down their data to try prevent the implementation of unapproved applications, as noted above. But with Sling's new incompatibility manifesto, we see their greed in its full flowering, and what it portends for the future of the Slingbox platform is not at all encouraging.

Rather than upgrading to newer Sling devices, I would urge current Slingbox owners -- and anyone else thinking about the purchase of Sling Media products, to instead wherever possible consider the use of Orb or similar services that operate using standard protocols, and devote whatever time and resources that they can to the development of open source software-based and hardware-based Internet video streaming systems. Sling Media's proprietary approach is no longer acceptable.

As it stands right now, as far as I'm concerned, Sling has slung its last.


Posted by Lauren at April 2, 2009 03:06 PM | Permalink
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