While they actually appeared on store shelves weeks ago, the Slingbox 350 and Slingbox 500 officially launched on Wednesday. These devices are the latest in Sling Media’s revolutionary line of set-top boxes that allow users to connect their TV source to the Internet, and enable remote streaming to a computer, tablet or smartphone.
The new units will support full HD 1080p video streaming online, but neither device supports an ATSC tuner. The Slingbox isn’t meant as a replacement for a cable or satellite box — it’s a way to get the most out of existing services.
Even though the boxes did appear on shelves at Best Buy with essentially no announcement from Sling Media, that was the result of a breakdown in communications in the retail channel — not an intentional soft rollout or lack of enthusiasm about promoting the new models, according to Brian Jaquet, Sling Media spokesperson.
“As with any new product launch, the product needs to be in the distribution chain and has to be available for the launch day at all retail stores, across all retail channels,” he noted. “The product was put out before the official launch day, and that was a mistake on the retailer’s part.”
Both models will be generally available on Oct. 14.
Slingbox made its debut in 2006 as a way for travelers to maintain their TV habits. Instead of merely time-shifting programs for viewing later, the Slingbox allows users to watch content — including local programming — remotely.
It’s a way for consumers to get more out of their cable or satellite services, Jaquet told TechNewsWorld. “It gives access to that living room experience anywhere you go. It allows users to watch their content that they have on their DVR at home. And it allows users to have the ability to view the content on additional screens outside the living room.”
Although there’s a growing trend toward cutting the cord, Slingbox is actually a way of tethering to it.
“The core value proposition is for those who are looking to get more for the money they already pay for cable and satellite TV,” said Jacquet.
“Rather than paying multiple services, you use Slingbox to send your programming over the Internet and you can watch it on your television, laptop, tablet, smartphone and more,” said telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan. “Slingbox is one of the new technologies that help consumers stitch different ways of watching television together into one account.”
New Model Array
Both of the new Slingbox models will support 1080p video streaming. The Slingbox 350 (US$180 MSRP) will offer integrated IR emitters along with cable tethering. The Slingbox 500 ($300 MSPR) adds built-in WiFi, USB storage, a remote, and HDMI/component video. There is no monthly subscription fee with either unit.
With more and more options available for accessing content online, could Slingbox find itself boxed in?
“Over the next few years, traditional pay television like cable TV may price itself out of existence,” Kagan told TechNewsWorld.
“Many users don’t mind paying a fortune for cable television, but a growing number do mind very much and are looking for low-cost alternatives,” he noted.
“The fastest-growing part of this television industry is customers using an antenna and getting television for free,” said Kagan. “Imagine that.”
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