I spent a half-hour in a Starbucks just around the corner from Moscone Center with three executives from Sling Media, makers of an interesting hardware product called Slingbox. I wouldn’t be surprised if most Mac users haven’t ever heard of it, mostly because up until now it’s been a Windows-only product.
Slingbox is a clever little $250 device that attaches to your TV set, cable box, satellite receiver, or TiVo, as well as your home broadband Internet connection. Once it’s installed, you are free to leave your home and go anywhere with a high-speed Internet connection — your office, a hotel room, a Wi-Fi-enabled cafe, wherever. When you get there, you open up your computer, launch the SlingPlayer application, and something crazy happens. Back at your house, SlingBox starts compressing the video coming out of your TV set-top box and streaming it to you. Yes, this means that you can now sit at work and have your local team’s baseball game playing in a window. Or that you can go on a business trip and still watch your favorite show, played back from your TiVo.
Slingbox even comes with a built-in infrared transmitter, so that you can change channels (or navigate through a TiVo’s menu system) remotely. Yes, if you’ve got a family member still at home, they might get a bit freaked out when the TiVo starts flipping channels under the control of someone 2500 miles away. But these sacrifices must be made in order for technology to continue marching on.
Right now SlingPlayer works on Windows PCs and is being rolled out for handheld devices running Windows Mobile. But today Sling Media announced that they’re working on a Mac version of SlingPlayer as well. I got a look at the alpha version, and it looked pretty darned good.
Blake Krikorian, the CEO of Sling Media, is an old-time Mac user and told me he’s excited about finally getting their technology up and running on the Mac. He and his brother came up with the idea for Slingbox when they became frustrated that they couldn’t watch their TV shows, especially sporting events, when they were at the office or on the road. The result is a product that lets you space-shift as well as time-shift, letting you watch your shows wherever you want.
Me, I can’t wait to try out the Mac version. The company says it should arrive sometime in the spring… just in time for baseball season. That’s what I call good timing.