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3/23/2006
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Software Tunes Mobile Devices Into TVs

Sling's software, written in C++, gives users access to local TV from anywhere in the world, the vendor says.

Sling Media Inc. has turned mobile phones and portable computers into televisions with software released Thursday, the company said.

Features made possible by SlingPlayer Mobile software give Slingbox owners the ability to watch and control their home TV from any network-enabled mobile phone or handheld computer running Windows Mobile, the vendor said.

The software, written in C++, gives users access to local TV from anywhere in the world, the vendor said. "You can get your hometown local news channels while you're on vacation in a country where you don't understand the language," said Roger Entner, vice president of wireless telecoms at research firm Ovum.

Here's how the company says it works: The SlingPlayer Mobile software installed on the computer or the mobile phone picks up the signal from the Slingbox installed in the home connects to a cable box and broadband connection. It transmits the signal from the broadband connection over the Internet to the portable device located anywhere in the world.

Sensitive to digital rights management (DRM) concerns and rebroadcast rights for streaming TV content, the SlingPlayer Mobile software will not transmit the signal to multiple remote devices simultaneously. Consumers also can only receive media content they would normally see in their home.

SlingPlayer Mobile is compatible with Windows Mobile Pocket PC 5.0 and 2003 Second Edition, and will become available for non-touch screen devices running on Windows Mobile Smartphone within the next month.

Software to run the application on other phones and operating systems will launch later this year, but "as we expand from device to device it becomes less clear the devices that will work," said Jeremy Toeman, Sling Media's vice president of product development. "We may begin to support Symbian or J2EE, but not all phone models."

While mobile TV is appealing to users, Entner said mobile TV could turn into a nightmare for carriers from Time Warner to AT&T. "People use about 60 megabytes per month on the laptop, but the mobile Slingbox pulls about 90 megabytes per hour over a regular network," he said. "Five guys from the same area who are fanatic about the NCAA can bring a network to its knees."

The rapidly changing mobile TV market set records in March. CBS announced it had set a new record for online sporting events, supporting 268,000 simultaneous online streams of its NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament offered live on the Internet

The Slingbox is $250, but the Sling Player mobile software is free until April 26. After, the cost is $29.99.

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