Slingbox Client Headed To Boxee

Dave Zatz —  June 27, 2011 — 17 Comments

Looks like I missed a good time in NYC last week. Amidst the pre, pre-holiday tech events, gdgt hosted Sling Media. Who reiterated their intentions to provide a leanback interface for Slingbox viewing. Basically, a SlingCatcher… without a SlingCatcher. At CES, SlingPlayer for Connected Devices was demo-ed on Google TV. Which I discovered was merely a Flash-based webpage, versus a dedicated app. Fortunately, that opens the door for easily servicing all sorts of platforms. Enter, the Boxee experience filmed by Engadget above at gdgt’s shindig.

While it seems we’re stuck with the laborious “SlingPlayer” naming convention, the otherwise compelling service is expected to enter public beta as soon as next month. You’ll need a Slingbox SOLO or a PRO-HD, but it’s not quite clear which Connected Devices will be supported on the other end. At the very least, Google TV is a lock, with a shortcut to be found the Spotlight section, as is a listing under Boxee’s Apps. So those are the brokered deals. But, as a webpage, there may be other hardware options available. Like the PS3?

Unfortunately, it’s not clear yet if this service will be saddled with a fee. And, if so, would Sling go with a monthly subscription or follow in their mobile app footsteps with something like a one time $30 charge? Regardless, color me interested. Although, in-home and given the latency, I think I’d prefer TiVo Premiere-to-Premiere or FiOS DVR-to-DVR streaming.

17 responses to Slingbox Client Headed To Boxee

  1. Do I need to mention that once upon a time I was employed by Sling Media and Nino was a coworker and I’m an Advisor for gdgt – although they’re doing stellar without my input. :)

  2. Sling sold too soon and to the wrong buyer.

  3. Guess the investors and other major stakeholders saw an opportunity. As for me, I’d certainly have stuck around longer had the company situation been different.

  4. The company has sure gone down hill since Echostar purchased them.

    I really hate that to watch some of their new boxes (such as the DISH 922 or 722 with Sling adapter) that you must watch online via their website (which seems to be down more then its up lately)

    You can’t use the stand alone Slingplayer software with these boxes.

    I also HATE the fact that the new iPad software locks out the old hardware including the Slingbox Pro. Making most of my Slingboxes that I have purchased over the years useless.

  5. *ahem* I told them so. *ahem*

    I just had to say that. :-) Better late than never I guess.

  6. Dave,

    Based on posts on TCF, it looks like Tivo has enabled Premiere to Premiere streaming support…

    http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?p=8586579#post8586579

  7. Yeah, I linked Engadget’s coverage above. Brennok tipped Richard and I off on Twitter. However, I’ve been following an older and more interesting thread. Maybe I’ll hit it today.

  8. Baal T. Hazaar June 28, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Dave & Megazone, I’m surprised that neither of you pointed out that the slingcatcher did more than catch sling streams. It had a lot of potential if it wasn’t so underpowered. Anyway had to call you out on that one given our discussions back when the catcher first came out.

  9. Oh, the stories I could tell. There’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff I’m not at liberty to discuss. It just wouldn’t be appropriate. What I will say is that I lobbied for a $99 pure Catcher that dispensed with all the DMA functionality at the same time there were even grander plans underway. The God Box is a tough nut to crack and no one’s successfully pulled it off.

  10. I think sling sold at the right time. They would have had to figure out a way to hold ON for about four years, through the economic down turn. 400M back in 2007 is like a BILLION today.

  11. Baal – The SlingCatcher was crippled at launch by having hardware that was two years old. It was delayed for so long, and the hardware that shipped was basically the original hardware. Any potential it may have had was overshadowed by hardware that couldn’t handle full HD in anything but MPEG2, and could only do H.264 SD.

    And the clever idea of being able to stream any portion of a PC desktop, to support other sources, was out of date when it shipped. By then other devices could mount and stream content right from the hard drive, no need to start it playing on the machine, no tying up the screen. And for other media, PlayOn’s solution is much more elegant.

    Of course, other touted features, like Clip&Sling, turned out to be vapor.

    And, to top it all off, it was insanely overpriced for what it could do. The only reason to buy a SlingCatcher was to stream from a Slingbox. I don’t think it did anything else that someone else didn’t do better, and cheaper.

    While I worked for Sling I’d argued, strongly, to kill it before it shipped. I said Sling either needed to delay it even more and use the time to redesign the hardware and software to give it then-current abilities, or kill it outright and instead pursue getting SlingPlayer onto the other boxes already on the market.

    I said Sling should do a Flash-based player for ‘clientless’ streaming on PCs/Macs as well as other devices. And that they should do a Blu-ray Java client that would turn any BD-Live deck into a SlingCatcher. As well as trying to get clients built into boxes. After that Netflix did exactly what I’d recommended Sling do.

    Sling was too late to market with the SlingCatcher. If they’d shipped it two years earlier, as originally planned, it would’ve been a decent system. But with all the delays it was just outdated at launch and the market had changed, with more competition. I think that, even if they had redesigned the hardware, it would’ve faced a challenge in the market given all of the other options.

  12. MegaZona – I am glad your plan didn’t work. As much as I hoped that SC would do HD, we have been using it from the first month it was out to stream from Boson to Israel, and it still amazes me. I agree that the rest of the features are useless, but I don’t really care. Best $300 I spent. I actually purchased another one as backup, once they killed it. It is magical.

  13. So the question is, why haven’t they released an updated sling catcher at the $50 or $99 price point that can only do Full h264 hd streaming from a slingbox now? Also why not release a Roku SlingPlayer and the BD-Live SlingPlayer app? All of the above still seem like great ideas to me.

  14. Itay2 – Well, if they’d done what I was suggesting you would’ve been able to use a Roku, Boxee, Popbox, Blu-ray player, PS3, PC, Mac, etc. as your ‘SlingCatcher’. It would’ve cost less and done more overall. I had a SlingCatcher, from my time with the company, and I gave it to a friend who wanted to setup a secondary TV in his home. I gave him a Slingbox PRO-HD to go with it, I had a couple. But I would *never* have recommended he buy one for $300, or even $200 just for that.

    Ben – Good question, ask Echostar. It looks like they’re finally coming around with this Flash client that works on Google TV & Boxee, and I believe it was reported it works on the PS3 as well by someone who tried the beta URL there. Why aren’t they more aggressive about getting this out there? Or writing versions in BD-J, getting a Roku channel, etc? Beats me, I’d be all over that.

    But I’ve said it before – I think they should publish the APIs for the client. Stop selling clients, give them away and publish the APIs (under whatever license they feel they need to use) so others can bake SlingStream support into their media player – HW or SW. They make their money off the HW – selling Slingboxes. The more clients there are, the more demand there will be for the boxes to serve them. And the more demand there is, the more leverage they have trying to sell ‘SlingLoaded’ products to MSOs.

    That’s the approach I’d use – give away the clients to make money on the hardware. But maybe I’m crazy or stupid and just don’t get the model they’re using.

  15. MZ, the SlingPlayer for Connected Devices email notification page has a little survey of devices, including Roku and TiVo. They could probably do something on Roku, but TiVo would require a business relationship of some sort. Regarding the MSO play, I don’t think it’s getting much traction with DISH and doubt any significant cable operator in the US will buy in. Too risky, in terms of content licensing, and not intuitive enough for many customers. Not sure what EchoStar’s intentions are at this point, but does anyone remember the DTVPal?

  16. I remember the DTVPal. It was kind of half-baked. But the DVR they recently launched in the UK looks pretty good, and something like that could be a player in the US I think.

    Now that the lawsuit is behind them, Echostar and TiVo could come to a business agreement to get SlingPlayer on TiVo – and maybe introduce Sling to TiVo as a sender. A first step would be tighter integration by using the IP remote, as they do with DISH DVRs. Down the road maybe a Sling add-on like there is for the Dish 722.

    But there is a way they might be able to make a SlingPlayer for TiVo without an agreement. You can stream content to a TiVo using the same technique as Streambaby. And you can still add an HME server by IP. So if they did a UI in HME to control whatever is needed, then just select the stream server to watch. But clearly it’d be a kludge, a business arrangement would be better. I bet it’d be Premiere only, done in Flash.

  17. I think for long term potential this could be great for Slingbox. I use 4 Slings connected in two different locations. When I filled out the online beta test I noticed a new part “connected at 2nd home,” I would think there is quite a market for people that want to sling either to a 2nd home or from a 2nd home. Personally my family does it both ways, we have a 2nd home with a Solo set up so we can watch local news and weather from that location before we leave. We also do the reverse sometimes when we’re up there and a major story is breaking at “home” we’ll connect to that Slingbox to get the updated news. I sure hope they come up with a channel on Roku but found it interesting they also list 360, Wii, and PS3……..long term using any of those would seem to be a big “boom” for Slingbox because so many of those boxes are already deployed in homes. If people knew they could watch via their connected game machine I think sales for both Solo and Pro-HDs would go up.

    If there is/was an upfront cost for a channel to be purchased on Roku I’d probably pay it as long as the quality compared to what I see on my computer and iPad.

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