Tuesday, June 10, 2008

iPhone Getting its Video in a Sling

Mobile video is developing along multiple lines, including carrier specific formats such as Verizon's VCAST and Sprint TV, and channel specific formats such as MediaFLO. Now Sling Media is entering the fray with a SlingPlayer for iPhone. This is potentially a game changer because it puts control of content back in the hands of the user.

Sling Media is best known for the Slingbox, a set top box that connects to your satellite receiver, DVR or Cable box, and a broadband connection. DSL or Cable broadband is used as a conduit to control the Slingbox and receive video from it on a computer located just about anywhere. It's as if you could pick up your TV set and carry it with you everywhere without trailing a collection of wires behind. The Slingbox and a WiFi hotspot take the place of those wires.

Alternatively, you could simply view IP video streamed or downloaded from Web sites while you are on the go. But this is currently a hit or miss proposition. Some networks offer full length programs after they've aired. Others only give you short teasers. Many popular satellite and cable channels don't offer the same content for Internet viewing. But with a Slingbox it doesn't matter. You input what you are already subscribing to and view it wherever you happen to be.

This isn't Sling Media's first foray into mobile video. They already have support for Windows Mobile, Palm OS or Symbian cell phones and PDAs. The iPhone version should hopefully be available soon. What the iPhone offers is a large and very high quality video display. The new iPhone with 3G data network capability will let you watch video content literally anywhere you can get a decent cellular signal. With the original iPhone you need the high bandwidth of a WiFi hotspot connection to enjoy the experience.

Corporate users aren't out in the cold, either. You might just want to access the business or news channels between customer calls or at lunch. But the ability to pick up any video without the need to first convert it to IP streaming, gives the Slingbox applications for video conferencing, security cameras, and pre-recorded videos from the home office or customer submissions.

As the iPhone advances to support corporate email, 3G and later 4G cellular data networks, Apple aficionados will have more ammo to lobby for the iPhone as an accepted business tool.

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