We were given the first view of Sling Media’s new Slingcatcher device yesterday at a presentation in London. We’re not allowed to tell you the launch date although it is now available for pre-ordering in the UK so you can assume you won’t have to wait too long. I won’t repeat all the technical specs and capabilities. There’s a good summary here
The Slingcatcher concept was first introduced at CES 2007
as the “projector” application, which basically takes whatever is on the PC screen and shows it on a TV. This became the Slingcatcher device and was originally planned for launch in late 2007. But when it came to preparing for launch, the company (or specifically, its founder, Blake Kriokorian) felt that the user experience was not up to scratch and went away to re-think the design and software interface.
The Slingcatcher is a digital media player which takes whatever is showing on the PC on the TV to which it is connected. The software does a few tricks to work out where video windows are and how best to show them on the TV display. Aspect ratio preferences can be set by the user, and any part of the PC can be rendered on the TV. The BBC’s iPlayer makes a natural test case, and we viewed a downloaded Top Gear show streamed over 802.11g to the Slingcatcher connected to a large screen plasma TV. The experience is watchable (if you can put up with Jeremy Clarkson for a moment longer), though not without its problems. It's certainly not even standard digital TV quality, and there was occasional jerkiness during the demonstration. Such faults become much more noticeable on the big screen than on a 14” PC display where the online video is normally viewed. The question for Sling will be whether more traditional TV viewers at which Slingcatcher is aimed will accept these problems when watching “TV”. We suspect that people familiar with the problems of online video will be happy enough, but it will be tough to explain the challenges of home network video streaming to the TV audience, who are ready to complain about the tiniest fault in television picture quality.
Another challenge for Sling will be to communicate the benefits of Slingcatcher effectively. The retail market is tough for any new technology category, as stores often aren’t sure where to position new products or how to get their sales staff to understand and communicate the benefits. We suspect that Sling's marketing campaign will make much of the Slingcatcher’s ability to put catch-up TV, such as the BBC’s iPlayer, onto the big screen. This should sound appealing enough to persuade a few technophobes to want to know more. How many of them are scared away by the complexities of home networking and online video remains to be seen.
Client Reading: Online Video: Global Market Forecast