Slingbox Owners Will Soon Be Able to Watch TV Programs on iPhones

Sling box owners who have an iphone will be able to watch live tv programs At long last, SlingBox owners who have an iPhone may soon be able to watch live TV that’s streamed over AT&T’s 3G network on the Apple gadget.

AT&T announced last
week that it no longer objects to Sling Media’s SlingPlayer application
for the iPhone using its high-speed data network. That should clear the
way for SlingPlayer users to download an updated version of the program
within the next week or so.

“We’re thrilled,” said John Santoro, a senior marketing manager at Sling. “People want it.”

Foster City, Calif.,-based Sling submitted a 3G-capable version of the application to Apple “overnight,” said Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller. Apple reviews all iPhone applications before it makes them available in its App Store. For nearly all applications, that process is currently taking about seven days or less.

“We look forward to reviewing it,” Muller said.

Sling’s technology allows consumers to watch the
same live and recorded television programs they could see in their
living rooms while they are away from home. Consumers can watch the
programs using a PC or on many different kinds of mobile phones using
either a Web browser or the company’s SlingPlayer program.

Sling developed its iPhone application last year, but Apple barred the program from receiving signals over AT&T’s 3G network, because AT&T
prohibited such a feature in its terms of service. As a result, when
Apple finally approved the application last May, the iPhone could
receive video only over a Wi-Fi connection.

AT&T’s stance put it and Apple in an awkward position. The SlingPlayer application had previously been available on other AT&T phones, and AT&T apparently did nothing to block those customers from downloading or using the application. Meanwhile, AT&T had allowed other iPhone applications to receive video over its network.

The matter caught the attention of federal regulators last summer. Prompted by Apple’s refusal to approve Google’s Voice application for the iPhone, the inquiry also looked at what other applications were being barred or limited by Apple or AT&T.

AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said the regulatory scrutiny didn’t prompt the company to change its
mind about allowing SlingPlayer to use its network. Instead, the
decision came after the company worked with Sling to test the
application and to ensure that it wouldn’t degrade service for other

“We wanted to make sure that we looked at the app
thoroughly (to make sure) that it does not pose a problem in terms of
congestion,” Siegel said.

But Sling’s technology has long had the ability to
adjust the amount of bandwidth it uses depending on network conditions.
And that technology has been used for years by SlingPlayers running on
other AT&T phones, noted Santoro, who suggested that the regulatory probe helped push AT&T to change its mind.

“Logic says it must have had some effect,” he said.

Last fall, AT&T
reversed course on another issue that drew scrutiny in the regulatory
inquiry: the ability of iPhone applications to make phone calls over AT&T’s 3G network. Previously, AT&T
had barred that feature, seeing it as a competitive threat to its voice
service. Late last month, Apple began approving applications that have
the feature.

Sling charges $29.99 for its
SlingPlayer Mobile application. The company will offer its upgrade that
includes the 3G capability for free to current application owners.

In order to use the application at home, consumers
will have to have one of the company’s SlingBoxes attached to a set-top
box or DVR.

SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (c) 2010.