Slingbox Released in Canada

Dave Zatz —  March 30, 2006

Any Canadian readers in the house? You can now pick up a Slingbox for $299 CAD, which roughly equates to the US list price of $249 — though on several occasions it’s been offered as low as $199 USD.

Sling Media says: Sling Media, Inc., a digital lifestyle consumer electronics products company, today announced that its award-winning Slingbox™ is now available across Canada from premiere retailers including Best Buy, Future Shop and London Drugs. Sling Media is working together with Keating Technologies, an award winning sales, marketing and support outsourcer and Ingram Micro, the leading Canadian distributor, to launch the Slingbox in the Canadian market. The Slingbox is available for order online immediately and in retail stores in April for $299 CAD.

TiVo Goes To War

Dave Zatz —  March 29, 2006

As many of you know, the next two weeks are critical in determining TiVo Inc’s future. If they are able to prevail in defending their “time warp” patent versus Dish Network, with court proceedings beginning today, TiVo should be able to work out royalty arrangements with other DVR providers – in or out of the courtroom.

Reuters says: TiVo Chief Executive Tom Rogers last month said a Tivo victory in the case could open the door to either a bounty of payments, since TiVo could then file similar suits against other DVR distributors, or more licensing agreements. “It will certainly cause people to think long and hard not only about Tivo’s brand … and the best of our engineering, but on a whole different level of what we mean in the mix if our intellectual property is upheld in the courts,” Rogers said at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit.

Satellite providers have used DVRs, which allow viewers to pause live television and record dozens of hours of programing, to woo customers away from cable companies. In turn, more and more cable providers are placing cable boxes with DVRs in their subscribers’ homes. A court win might empower TiVo to challenge the technology in other DVRs. However, EchoStar, a far larger company than Tivo whose 2005 revenue of over $8 billion is more than 40 times that of its rival, could perhaps outlast TiVo during an extended appeals process, even if it doesn’t defeat TiVo in court.

Several shopping sites have just posted listings for the mysterious new Series 2 devices (TCD649080,TCD649180) that feature dual tuner capabilities, Ethernet, and an 80HR or 180HR recording capacity at a list price of $249 and $349 respectively. No word on ship dates, however it seems the NTSC OTA tuner will be phased out well before next year’s deadline. This box doesn’t have HD or CableCARD, but should tide us over for a few months. Based on the pricing, looks like my $800 S3 estimate could be pretty close…

Amazon says:

  • Record shows from two basic cable channels, or one basic cable and one digital cable channel, at once.
  • Up to 180 hours recording capacity
  • Includes Ethernet and USB ports, so connecting to your home network is a snap
  • Only TiVo offers exclusive features like WishList searches, Season Pass recordings, TiVoToGo transfers, plus new online services like music, photos, and more!

The world’s first, best, and easiest-to-use digital video recorder just got better. Now, record two shows at once! Only the TiVo service gives you the freedom to watch your favorite shows any time, anywhere.

UPDATE: Looks like TiVo has been busy contacting online retailers, as most listings have been removed. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing these units prior to the 4/15 Lifetime subscription cut-off. Supposedly TiVo was not prepared to release information on these units, in this manner, at this time. How many folks will return recent purchases or decide not to buy current hardware due to this non-announcement blunder?

Merchant listings:
Amazon, Buy.com, Chumbo, Merchant America, beeGool, FadFusion

SlingPlayer Mobile Released

Dave Zatz —  March 23, 2006

SlingPlayer Mobile has been released for PocketPC 2003 and Windows Mobile 5 devices with a touch screen. A version for non-touch screen phones should be available within a month, which works out well as I’m considering the T-Mo SDA. As promised the software was released in Q1, though the current edition is a public beta.

While the Sling folks didn’t entirely take my advice in giving away the software, they are grandfathering anyone who purchases their Slingbox by April 26 and providing the software for free — after that, it’ll cost you $29.99. This is one of those rare cosmic events when us early adopters aren’t penalized in the wallet.

Sling Media says: A trial version of SlingPlayer Mobile is available today as a free download from Sling Media’s web site, www.slingmedia.com, as part of the public beta program. Beginning April 26th, SlingPlayer Mobile will be available for $29.99 and includes a free 30-day trial. Slingbox owners who purchase and register their Slingbox prior to April 26th will receive a free license for SlingPlayer Mobile. There are no monthly or recurring charges for the use of the software.

“SlingPlayer Mobile has arrived and we are thrilled to offer this amazing new piece of software to our loyal customer base,” said Blake Krikorian, co-founder and CEO of Sling Media. “SlingPlayer Mobile delivers the complete home TV experience on any compatible Windows Mobile device and works with your existing Slingbox. Best of all, we are making it available for free for a limited time so if you are thinking about becoming a Slingbox owner, now is the perfect time.”

“This is an exciting time for people who want a single mobile device that does more than email,” said Scott Horn, general manager, Mobile and Embedded Devices Division at Microsoft Corp. “While Windows Mobile enables people to stay on top of their job and connected to the people they care about, the platform also supports solutions such as SlingPlayer Mobile that give users the freedom to watch their favorite television content while on-the-go.”

Ah, March Madness… definitely amongst the top sporting events. The first two days are especially exciting, each consisting of about 12 hours of competition and, if we’re lucky, some amazing upsets. I have no idea who Northwestern State is, but they sure were dramatic in sending Iowa home.

As I mentioned last week, CBS is webcasting games for free via March Madness on Demand. So I decided to check it out and compare the service to Slingbox.

My CBS SportLine experience didn’t get off to a good start with a 10 minute wait (see image below) followed by a Marriott commercial before I could access the feeds. Once in, I had several games to choose from — though one was blacked out due to regional restrictions. I’m not certain if that was determined by my IP address and/or the information in my profile. The CBS SportsLine site had banner ads as promised, but what I hadn’t realized is that they’d also be serving commercials during time outs. Though, they must not have sold all their ad space as static “Stay Tuned” graphics often replaced commercials.
Continue Reading…

TiVo KidZone: The Experience

Dave Zatz —  March 17, 2006

If you’ve been following along, you know TiVo was in Washington, DC this week to announce two new KidZone developments — the addition of Parents’ Choice Foundation for content suggestions and the ability of KZ to identify and record E/I programming. I got in touch with TiVo last week and reminded them I live in the area (and clean up pretty well). They were very cool in giving me the green light to attend what turned out to be an exclusive gathering of only a few dozen people including CEO Tom Rogers and Congressman Fred Upton. On behalf of the blogosphere, I thank you TiVo (and Thomas Hawk)!

When I originally learned of KidZone I was underwhelmed. After all, what do I care about parental controls — I don’t have children and I don’t have any immediate reproductive plans. Why aren’t these guys working on my VOD and Series 3? Having learned more and allowing this initiative to percolate for awhile, I’ve changed my tune… perhaps this is bigger than we thought. KidZone now strikes me a positive and powerful strategic move by TiVo of furthering Rogers’ goal of differentiating themselves from generic DVR offerings. With both public and political scrutiny of television programming recently, TiVo is using this functionality to command attention and align themselves with powerful allies (as in Congress). This kind of exposure will surely help in marketing themselves as a software solution to cable companies and in limiting customer defections. I’m not sure how many boxes KidZone will move on its own, but TiVo has picked up a new set of vocal evangelists by partnering with these various watchdog groups.
Continue Reading…

HD-DVD Launch Whimper

Dave Zatz —  March 15, 2006

Looks like the next generation of DVDs will be getting off to a slow start. Netflix may have added a HD rental page, but they won’t have any discs to rent to the few consumers who manage to get their hands on a player.

Generally speaking, I’m an early adopter of new technology. I was definitely first on my block with a DVD player (and finding discs was a chore), but I have little desire to upgrade to either of the new formats. Why? Current 480p movies with 5.1 digital surround is quite nice… and spending $500-$800 on a bulky player with limited titles for marginally improved video and sound quality doesn’t compute. Additionally, copy restrictions will prevent ripping (not that computer drives even exist yet) and may limit output to HDMI. If I’m not jumping on board now, I can’t imagine many people who will.

Hollywood Reporter says: Moreover, sources report that only 10,000 Toshiba players are being shipped to retailers initially, a number that indicates low sales expectations. On the software front, it is unlikely that even a single HD-DVD title will be available for sale this month at any of the consumer electronics chains and discount retailers that are bringing in the players.

(via Thomas Hawk)