Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sling Almost Has The Video Genie Out of the Bottle

After months of wrangling, rumors and posturing the highly anticipated SlingPlayer for iPhone is finally available for download in the App Store...but not before AT&T Mobility took a hammer to it's knee-cap. For now the $29.99 iPhone version called SlingPlayer Mobile will only work via Wi-Fi and not over AT&T's 3G network. The operator claims that the App would use too much network capacity and potentially prevent other customers from having a good 3G experience.

You know, it's all about principles...except that BlackBerry Bolds, Palms and N-series Nokia devices can use Sling applications over the network and nevermind that other broadcast Apps like CBS's don't seem to be a problem. Some have suggested that this limitation is a slap in the face to AT&T's U-verse competitor EchoStar, who acquired Sling Media back in 2007. I think it may be more about appeasing FLO TV partner Qualcomm (who must hate this) and some of the IP owners who benefit from that service. As usual, no one seemed to care very much when it was just a few early-adopter types who happened to figure out that there was a Sling application for their Centros...but on the highly visible App Store platform everything changes. Non-mobile people actually talk about iPhone Apps.

I think the real big news here is that SlingMedia is on the verge of catalyzing a movement that will make proprietary mobile streaming & broadcast services to the handset an anachronism. I have no doubt they will soon get access to AT&T's network for this App...and that by virtue of the aforementioned iPhone effect the service will quickly get unprecedented popular/industry mindshare. This will inevitably lead to an explosion of imitators, innovators & Boxees on iPhone/AT&T who will make it easier and easier for consumers to push/pull TV and other rich media content to/from handsets...and demand by consumers on other carriers to get those same services. I see product offerings like V CAST, MobiTV, Sprint TV, GoTV and FLO TV disappearing as consumers opt to watch hundreds of channels of real TV (including recorded TV), wherever/whenever, for the price of a set-top box and a one time app fee. This movement will intensify as the MSOs and Satellite guys get into the mix with their own Sling-type offerings...and as some of these services migrate to the mobile web, once Adobe (or whomever) gets a mobile video browser plug-in working properly and meaningfully deployed. Whew!...can't wait. Ultimately, the effect of Sling on iPhone will be big win for the consumer...more TV, more often, for cheap. The same can't be said for the carriers, who'll soon be wondering where their video subscription revenue went, or for the IP owners, who'll soon be wondering where their mobile licensing window went.

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