The Future of SlingPlayer Mobile

Dave Zatz —  January 31, 2009 — 10 Comments

While I’m not quite ready to speculate on Sling Media’s future retail presence and hardware initiatives, in light of recent defections, we do have a few clues as to their current mobile strategy.

SlingPlayer Mobile (SPM), which enables you to watch your home television programming on the go currently supports numerous devices, including many running Windows Mobile, PalmOS, and Symbian, for a $30 one time fee. Their Blackberry client is currently available as a public beta. Unfortunately, for some, only GSM handsets are supported at the moment. But I believe Sling will also get software running acceptably on the Storm. We also know Sling hopes to submit the frequently-requested iPhone app (above) to Apple for approval early this year (Q1). Of course, there’s no guarantee Apple will permit 3G streaming – they’ve been inconsistent in how they’ve handled other video apps – and we don’t yet know Sling’s pricing strategy given Apple’s hefty 30% cut.

So, what’s next for SlingPlayer Mobile? Megazone, who heads up some of Sling’s beta programs, recently provided a few clues on the Sling Community forum:

As has been pointed out, the actual development information hasn’t been released yet so it is premature to be talking about development. From what we have seen it looks like webOS is an all-new environment, so it would need an all-new SPM which would not be a small task. At this time we’re taking a wait and see approach to webOS. When it ships we’ll watch the adoption rate and decide if it warrants developing SPM for webOS or not. Keep in mind it has currently been announced for one device (the Pre) on one carrier (#3 and currently falling) so it remains to be seen if and when it appears on additional devices and carriers for the worldwide market and achieves a significant market share.

In the past Sling Media and Palm have worked closely. In fact, back in my Sling days I attended a few events with Palm and SPM was featured on their website. I understand the business case MZ is making, but it’s also critical to look ahead and predict a successful platform… and region. (ie: The dev cycles spent producing UIQ support probably hasn’t paid off.) While there’s no guarantee Palm will succeed with WebOS, they’ve got a ton of buzz, a ton of investment, and a positive track record in this space. If I were Sling, I’d be banging down Palm’s doors for an opportunity to collaborate.

If WebOS isn’t next we can probably guess which mobile OS is. MZ kindly confirms:

The next logical platform is Android, which we’re already taking a strong look at. Unlike webOS, Android already has multiple announced devices with commitments from several major device makers for even more, with carriers lined up world-wide.

While I’ve seen many announcements, I’ve only seen one commercially available device. And, in addition to sales numbers, Sling needs to analyze the demographics behind those phones and their software purchasing trends. However, I’ve been telling Sling for years they should consider a Linux client if they’d be able to efficiently port it to multiple platforms… Like Unbuntu, Nokia N810, Android, etc. – which might even form the basis for a WebOS solution. AND more embedded devices.

10 responses to The Future of SlingPlayer Mobile

  1. Fine. Miss the pending wave of potential new users Sling. Your loss.

    …I think there are some folks in Europe who would be glad to develop an Android client without your blessing.

    http://www.videolan.org/vlc

  2. Mobile video in Europe is a different business than here in the US. Canada, too, for that matter. Some of it has to do with data plans and some of it has to do with the availability of OTA digital video. A more successful European strategy might be bundling one mobile license with every hardware purchase. But I’m still not sure they watch (or pay for) TV the way we do… And I doubt Sling’s moved much hardware or mobile software over there.

  3. When I saw your Tweet I was afraid you’d taken my post on SlingCommunity as a basis. I may have to stop participating there.

    Keep my comments in the context of the thread they were posted in. It was a discussion of the Pre and webOS and answering posters who were looking for some announcement *now* about support. We had people at CES asking us “When will you support the Pre?” within hours of it being announced. There are many factors that go into deciding which platform(s) to support. The largest factor is the business case – resources are finite. If we had unlimited resources we’d happily support every platform out there. But in the real world devoting resources to X means they aren’t available for Y. So you want to make sure that X is the best place to invest those resources.

    But there are other factors – business partnerships, unannounced plans, synergies that may make the investment in X useful for Y or Z, etc. As you say, Sling has worked with Palm in the past and I’m sure we’ll continue to communicate with them. We’ve worked to specifically support their Palm OS and Windows Mobile devices – we just recently issued an update for WinMo to support the 320×320 screens on the Treo 800w and Treo Pro, for example. It is just to early to say anything about the Pre other than it looks like an interesting device and we’re keeping an eye on developments. There may well be more, but I’m not going to comment on things we haven’t made public. Don’t read too much into my post, especially out of context.

    At this time we have not officially announced any development for Android or webOS, but we’re keeping an eye on both of them. Android seems to be the next logical platform, looking at the overall market, and Sling reps have talked about it a few times. I believe some have gone as far as to say it is our next platform, but I won’t since we haven’t made any announcements. The kind of support we’re seeing through the OHA is very promising, and if even some of the announced devices and partners come to market it will be a strong player.

    Symbian UIQ was a strategic development as we launched it in conjunction with launching the Slingbox itself into several European countries where UIQ is a very strong player with a large mobile market share, especially the Nordic countries. Having support for a leading mobile platform in the countries where the Slingbox was launching was an important investment. For someone in the US it may not look like it made much sense, since UIQ is unheard of here. But there were market-specific reasons for it. And it wasn’t an all-new effort since we already had Symbian S60 support, and despite being different branches they share some common foundation. So the work for UIQ isn’t necessarily the same investment required for an all-new platform.

    As for Android or webOS work being the basis for other platforms, I don’t think so. From what I’ve seen of the Android dev environment it is basically Java-based and unique to Android, just as the BB SDk is unique to BB. Even thought Android is based on a Linux kernel, development is to the SDK and you aren’t writing a native Linux app. So I don’t think it would be portable to Maemo (Nokia’s tablets), or desktop Linux. (Now, Android running on another platform, sure, that’d probably work fine.) Same for webOS most likely, though only an overview of the environment has been available, at least that I’ve seen. From what I’ve seen and heard it doesn’t look like a webOS solution would be portable to other platforms, but would be unique to webOS. Certainly completely different from Android, or any existing SPM platform, from what I’ve seen so far.

    Personally, I’ve been a Palm OS user since 1998, and I still carry a Treo 680 as my personal phone. But I’ve watched Palm closely all that time and I’ve been through Palm OS 6/Cobalt, Palm Source/PalmOne/Access ALP, the Foleo fiasco, and years of waiting for Palm OS 2/Nova/webOS. Palm has their work cut out for them to come into the market with an all-new platform and carve out a niche, as well as winning, and winning back, developers. I know more than a few former Palm OS developers who are gun-shy after the false starts and the waits, most have moved on to other platforms – like Android. They can do it, if they can recapture what they had early on, but I don’t think it will be easy.

  4. When you use the word “we” I will assume you’re speaking on behalf of the company.

    I’m well aware of UIQ’s penetration in Europe. The point I was making has to do with primarily conducting business in that market the same way it’s being done here in the US. (As touched upon in my previous comment above.)

    I’m still bummed Palm killed the Foleo. Thought it had a lot of potential, though their marketing and market (Palm Treo extender) was off. I played with it at a few press events. The hardware felt great and the software was quite sprightly. With the right Linux apps, it would have been an excellent mobile blogging platform. In retrospect, when you look at how the netbook market has blossomed, I wonder if they’re kicking themselves.

  5. I think killing the Foleo was the only thing they could do. When Trip was talking about what they did *wrong* with it *at the launch event* I knew it was in trouble. He kept saying things like “If I had a chance I’d use a faster CPU”, etc – and this is months before it was to ship. My reaction was “So do it right, you just convinced me and lots of other people not to consider this product until you fix it.” And I really wanted to believe it could be good, but watching the launch event left me feeling worse about the product than I did going in.

    I think they would’ve been creamed by netbooks. For the same price you get something that is MUCH more powerful than the Foleo, which couldn’t even support most Internet media. If they’d retooled it into a netbook and given it a *real* OS with support for all the common formats, etc, maybe. But given how cheap netbooks are with full-featured Linux or WinXP OSes, it would’ve been an impossible sell for the Foleo as announced. It was really bad timing, the hardware and software was way too limited in what it could do, and it was timed just before the first wave of netbooks with much, much more powerful processors and real operating systems. If it had been a year earlier it might have had a shot, but I think it would’ve been a disaster to try to sell the Foleo once netbooks started flooding the market.

    Maybe Palm can take webOS and make a *real* netbook, like we’re seeing some companies showing off Android netbooks and tablets. Foleo II could be a webOS-based netbook with a real processor and support for any webOS apps, that’d be interesting.

  6. Well, no worries about me speaking for Sling or not anymore – they fired me today for that post.

  7. I’m really sorry to hear they let you go, MZ. I hope you’re able to some green pastures soon.

  8. MZ and I chatted on the phone yesterday. I’m very sorry to learn he was let go. As someone who’s been on the bench since November, I can certainly empathize.

  9. SELL YOUR SLINGBOXES cause they’re NOT going to support ANDROID !!!!!! Here’s the message I got from SlingMedia Support when I asked the question….How sad !!!

    Thank you for contacting Sling Media Technical Support.

    As we understand, you want to know if the Slingbox will support the Android Mobile devices any time soon. We will be more than willing to assist you.

    Android is a software platform and operating system for mobile devices, based on the Linux operating system, developed by Google and later the Open Handset Alliance. It allows developers to write managed code in a Java-like language that utilizes Google-developed Java libraries, but does not support programs developed in native code.

    Most of the supported cell phones run on Windows OS. Since Android runs on Linux OS, it is not compatible with the SlingPlayer. Therefore, Slingbox will not support it and we do not know if it will be supported any time soon.

    If you require further assistance, feel free to visit Sling Media Support – Support or contact us at 1-877-GO-SLING (877-467-5464) Monday through Sunday 7am-7pm Pacific Time.

  10. What is the status now on android? Last time I called they said it maybe in development.

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