CES: The Sling's arrows of outrageous fortune?
It's deja vu all over again. But this time with a price and a launch date.
Sling Media is reintroducing the new (and somewhat delayed) product SlingCatcher at CES 2008, the rectangularly hexagonal set-top box, at right, that lets you watch digital and online video on a television screen. The company describes this box as a "digital video player," which seems like a bit of a misnomer as it seems more of a conduit or translator than anything. (The box is a virtual no-parking zone; video is only passing through.)
Whether player or interpreter, it slings three ways. It allows you to:
1. Watch video from your Slingbox or DVR in another location. (So, they say, you can save yourself the cost of buying or renting that brand-spanking new HD DVR and pricey monthly subscription and still tap the show you have on the living room box on, say, the den TV.)
2. Project video from your PC laptop wirelessly onto a television screen. (Sorry Mac, at this point, Sling says the software works only with Windows XP and Vista.) You could stream your favorite shows on MeeVee or elsewhere online to your TV, and still have no need for cable. There's a bit of latency, but who cares? You won't likely be watching it on both screens.
3. Plug in a USB 2.0 external hard drive and watch video you have stored there. Sling says it works with all flavors from AVI to XviD.
So you get a remote, and it supports standard and high def A/V outputs as well as analog and digital audio. It also boasts integrated wireless and a standard Ethernet jack.
The company says to keep an eye out for upcoming partnerships "with both large and small content owners to create and deliver their offerings directly to the TV via the SlingCatcher. The add-on storage capability (via hard disk drive attachment) could be utilized for direct delivery of such content."
Kind of like a makeshift DVR. But the box is BYOS -- bring your own storage -- which isn't ideal if they're envisioning it as an actual catcher and not just a catch-and-releaser.
The Sling folks here at CES said SlingCatcher should be available in the spring and cost $249, but the press release on the company website says "the company is targeting a price point under $200."
Either way, it costs less than a brand new TiVo HD with a service subscription.
-- Michelle Maltais