This is what Shawn Morton would look like if he had been made of LEGO -- the personal website of Shawn Morton
UPDATE: This blog has been retired as of August 2011. See this post for more information or connect with me on Twitter.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Who crippled SlingPlayer for the iPhone?
After months of speculation and anticipation, Sling Media and Apple released SlingPlayer Mobile for the iPhone this week. The release, which should have been a big day for Slingbox owners like myself (I have 3), was overshadowed by the fact that the app would *not* be allowed to use AT&T's 3G network. Instead, it can only be used on a Wi-Fi network.

Bloggers and the Twitterati quickly jumped all over the story and blame landed squarely on AT&T. After all, they had tweaked, untweaked and retweaked their Terms of Service recently to place limitations on placeshifting. And, immediately following the release, they issued a statement via Engadget that said:

"Slingbox, which would use large amounts of wireless network capacity, could create congestion and potentially prevent other customers from using the network. The application does not run on our 3G wireless network. Applications like this, which redirect a TV signal to a personal computer, are specifically prohibited under our terms of service. We consider smartphones like the iPhone to be personal computers in that they have the same hardware and software attributes as PCs.

That said, we don't restrict users from going to a Web site that lets them view videos. But what our terms and conditions prohibit is the transferring, or slinging, of a TV signal to their personal computer or smartphone.

The Slingbox application for the iPhone runs on WiFi. That's good news for AT&T's iPhone 3G customers, who get free WiFi access at our 20,000 owned and operated hot spots in the U.S., including Starbucks, McDonalds, Barnes & Noble, hotels, and airports. AT&T is the industry leader in WiFi.

This caused many to assume that AT&T's 3G network couldn't handle all of the SlingPlayer traffic on their network. Of course, Slingplayer is already available for Blackberry and Windows Mobile on AT&T (I've used my SlingPlayer on AT&T's network for years without a problem), so that doesn't seem to be a valid reason.

Last night, I received an e-mail from Sling Media announcing the new iPhone app (and an overshadowed update to the Blackberry version). At the very bottom of that e-mail, Sling includes the following disclaimer:

Sling is blaming Apple for the Wi-Fi only SlingPlayer for iPhone

"* SlingPlayer Mobile for the iPhone is available as Wi-Fi only at Apple's request."

This morning, Gizmodo ran this article that claims insider knowledge of an upcoming i-Verse app from AT&T that would allow AT&T U-verse customers to placeshift their TV signal.

And let's not lose sight of the fact that Sling made an announcement a few weeks ago that owners of older Slingboxes could *not* use SlingPlayer for the iPhone. I'm sure many people upgraded their Slingbox in order to take advantage of the new app. Now, after the Wi-Fi outrage, Sling reveals that the iPhone app will support all Slingboxes. Sorry 'bout that, upgraders.

So, for those keeping score, bloggers and tweeple are blaming AT&T, AT&T is blaming Sling for violating AT&T's Sling-specific Terms of Service and Sling is blaming Apple.

As far as I'm concerned, they are all to blame. Regardless of the reason, they have all contributed to building up hype about a product that fails to meet the expectations of their customers.

I was actually considering upgrading to an iPhone this summer once their new (rumored) hardware is released. Having a Slingplayer app using that big, beautiful touchscreen was one of the primary reasons for that. Combine that with the $2,000 bill issue we just resolved and I have lost the main reason to go with the iPhone or stay with AT&T.

About Shawn Morton

Married father of 6; VP of Social Media at JPMorgan Chase; gluten-free; gadget enthusiast; hair metal aficionado; #Movember man View more on LinkedIn.