TV Placeshifting Moving to the Mainstream?

TV Here, There, Everywhere – New York Times The New York Times is out with a basic overview piece on TV placeshifting and focuses a lot on Slingbox. Slingbox has been getting a ton of attention lately and most recently has announced support for a SlingPlayer Mobile for Pocket PC beta.

From Engadget: “The SlingPlayer software — which lets broadband-enabled WinMo devices stream live and recorded TV from a remote SlingBox — works as a 30-day trial, after which time it can be purchased for $30 (although it’s free with any new ‘Box prior to April 26th).”

I brought a Slingbox home to hook it up and test it out and was pretty much unimpressed. I never did actually get it to work because it required a seperate ethernet connection in and where I have my satellite receiver I was already using the ethernet in for my Media Center PC.

I have used Orb on the other hand which works great, is free, and doesn’t require a seperate ethernet connection beyond what is already going into my PC. Of course Orb requires a PC with a TV tuner whereas Slingbox can work with a TiVo (although with plugins, etc. you can still access Orb with Tivo), but my question is why in the world would anyone who does have a Media Center PC ever use Slingbox?

Engadget seems to like Slingbox more saying, “Before scoffing at what you think is the same service Orb charges $0 for, consider that the Sling service costs nothing as well, so all you’re paying for is the client (well, and the box, if you don’t already have one), which trumps Orb in features, convenience, and interface.”

I guess I just don’t get it. I can get Orb for, well free, no fee to use, no hardware to buy, etc. etc. Or I can pay for a Slingbox box, have one more thing cluttering up my living room, be required to put a new ethernet jack or switch in for something that supposedly “trumps Orb in features, convenience, and interface.”

Perhaps there is more that I’m not getting here but you basically use this device to watch all of your TV (and in the case of Orb also access your music, digital photos, etc.). I’ve used Orb now and it is super easy and does a great job recording and playing back your TV (albeit in crappy low res quality). Other than watching TV (which both can do) what features make Slingbox worth spending the extra money on?

I’m not sure why Engadget says Slingbox is more “convenient” than Orb. JupiterMedia Analyst Michael Gartenberg in his post on the two technologies said, “Orb by contrast doesn’t require you to do anything to your router, it just works which is much more user friendly.” Gartenberg seemed to feel that the chief advantage of Slingbox over Orb was that Orb required a PC. But if you’ve already got a PC with a tuner card it would seem that Orb would be the way to go.

Again, Gartenberg: “If you do have one or are interested in your music, pictures and other video content from your Windows XP PC, Orb is a better choice (It’s not clear to me if the Slingbox will support an MCE remotely. When I spoke with their CEO he assured me it would but I don’t know if it made it into the final release yet.) Orb also support a lot more mobile platforms at the moment so if you’re on the road with a Windows Smartphone, PocketPC, Macintosh or any device with a web browser and either Windows Media or REAL, you can connect.”

Personally the interface of Orb works just fine for me. My sister has also been able to use my Orb from Egypt just fine (the only way to get American TV over there).

One thing that is for sure though is that this technology is certainly getting a lot of attention. Personally I think Microsoft should just buy Orb and build their place shifting technology into Media Center, but then again perhaps the jury still isn’t out on the legality of place shifting and Microsoft is not ready for potential liability over the technology that we could see in the future. And besides Orb works just fine with Media Center as it is today without having to buy them.

5 Replies to “TV Placeshifting Moving to the Mainstream?”

  1. You’re right that, if you have a Media Center PC, Orb is a no brainer.

    But if you don’t have a Media Center PC — if you use a Mac, for example — Orb does nothing for you. The Sling Box works great for me.

  2. Thomas,

    I think the reason people like Michael Gartenberg find the Slingbox convenient is because the majority of the country is not using Windows Media Center PCs, and also do not have a spare PC around their home to leave on 24/7. Furthermore, the majority of TV viewers who have ‘advanced’ services (NFL Sunday Ticket, premium movie channels, etc) have digital cable or satellite receivers, which the Slingbox is capable of controlling remotely (this includes DVRs for watching recorded shows and setting future recordings).

    If you are a Windows MCE owner, and use it as your primary TV source, then sure, installing software is generally easier than installing hardware. But for the rest of the world, using a PC for these purposes is similar to saying a PC makes a great DVD player in the living room – sure you *could* choose to do so, but most people won’t make that choice…

    Hope this makes some sense!

    VP, Market Development
    Sling Media

    ps – love your site, I’m a subscriber!

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