Full Disclosure: I freaking love Sling Media. On the time line of groundbreaking home theater technology the Slingbox falls between the TiVo and 3D TVs.

[ NOTE: Real quickly for those that don't know, the Slingbox enables 'place shifting' which is a fancy way of saying you can watch YOUR TV from anywhere you've got an internet connection and laptop (or properly enabled mobile phone).  If you are on a trip you can control your TV and cable box (TiVo, DVD player, etc) remotely just as if you had your remote in your hand.  It's fantastic. ]

At CES this year Sling Media announced 4 pieces of hardware and one software change that may be the most important of all.  All of this works into the ‘TV Everwhere’ movement that is the buzzword du jour of the cable companies and all of these products will only be available directly through cable providers (only Dish Network, so far).  It should be noted that Echostar bought Slingmedia (they also own Dish Network) and all of these products are integrated or compatible with Dish’s new products.

[Editor's Note: Everyone I spoke to said that these devices will be available through providers other than Dish Network.  When I jokingly said, 'Ya, when EchoStar allows it.' They all rolled their eyes, dropped their heads and said, 'Ya, there are some challenges. It'll happen eventually.'  Not sure how bad a sign that is, but I have to assume it's EchoStars strategy and other providers are not eager to boost EchoStars bottom line (that is 80% speculation).]

Slingbox 700U

Slingbox-700uThe 700U is designed to be sold by the cable and satellite companies as a USB connected add-on to DVRs and cable boxes.  It should reduce the cost to the customer, but it will require providers to make their boxes compatible.

This is a good idea and a logical way to expand the market of users, but it’s definitely not groundbreaking.

Sling Receiver 300

Sling-Receiver-300The Receiver 300 is basically an extender box.  It has to be used on a network with an existing ‘SlingLoaded’ device and in standard Sling fashion, it allows you to watch / manipulate your primary TV source on a second TV.  It’s small and meant to be mounted on the back of a TV or on a wall.  The idea here is that the customer could use this device to get a HD signal to a TV without having to run additional wires (perfect for a 1 bedroom apartment with 2 TVs).  The device connects through HDMI and presumably slings the signal through WiFi.

Sling Touch Control 100

Sling-Touch-ControlThis is basically a really fancy IP-based universal remote.  Just like any remote, it will control all the devices in your entertainment center.  It’s trick is that IP-based part.  It’s a WiFi enabled device that use your home network to control compatible devices over your home network (it uses IR for ‘legacy’ products) while delivering a streamlined user experience to the 4.3″ screen.

The whole SlingGuide product is just an enhanced channel guide.  It provides additional ways to search your channels while also providing more access to additional information on a particular show.  SlingGuide is really Slings way of standardizing the channel guide experience across their products.

All in all, this is a pretty slick universal remote but depending on the price might not be worth it (no idea what the price will be).



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Sling Monitor 150

Sling-Monitor-150Continuing the TV Everwhere trend this is a 15.6″, 720p display that includes speakers and 802.11n wireless.  This is basically the Sling Receiver 300 with a screen.  It’s meant to be setup (wall or countertop) anywhere running a TV source wire would not be practical.  Again a very cool product that isn’t groundbreaking and whose adoption will likely be defined by it’s price.  For the record, it doesn’t have a battery and requires WiFi so it’s not portable (now if someone could add a battery pack and wireless 3G card…THAT would be a product).

Support for Adobe Flash

adobe-flash-player-iconLastly, but possibly most importantly, is Sling’s support of Adobe Flash Player and Flash streaming protocols in the Pro-HD and SOLO.  This means that any device that supports a Flash Player will be able to receive the Sling content.  Since Flash is already so heavily used for streaming, support across devices is very very high and Adobe recently announced Flash for Mobile there will be a rapid influx of ways that you can receive your Sling’d media (Fingers crossed that means a WebOS Sling player in the next few months).

In Conclusion

Sling has a fantastic technology.  EchoStar has integrated that technology into Dish Network’s products pretty well.  In an effort to expand their user base EchoStar is pushing the idea of ‘TV Everywhere’ and all of these products go a long way towards enabling that technology.  Hopefully TiVo will support this technology and I can continue my love affair with TiVo and Sling the way it should be (i.e. without IR blasters).   Most of all, the support of Flash will break down the most frustrating wall of Sling’s products … the mobile players.