The New York Times
March 23, 2006
IN the olden days, Americans gathered in front of the television sets
in their living rooms to watch designated shows at designated times.
You had a choice of three channels, and if you missed the broadcast,
you'd feel like an idiot at the water cooler the next day. Quaint,
Then came the VCR, which spared you the requirement of being there on
time. Then cable TV, which blew open your channel choices. Then TiVo,
which eliminated the necessity of even knowing when or where a show
was to be broadcast. What's next -- eliminating the TV altogether?
Well, sure. Last year, a strange-looking gadget called the Slingbox
($250) began offering that possibility. It's designed to let you, a
traveler on the road, watch what's on TV back at your house, or what's
been recorded by a video recorder like a TiVo. The requirements are
high-speed Internet connections at both ends, a home network and a
Windows computer -- usually a laptop -- to watch on. (A Mac version is
due by midyear.)
Today is another milestone in society's great march toward anytime,
anywhere TV. Starting today, Slingbox owners can install new player
software on Windows Mobile palmtops and cellphones, thereby
eliminating even the laptop requirement.
On cellphones with high-speed Internet connections, the requirement of
a wireless Internet hot spot goes away, too. Now you can watch your
home TV anywhere you can make phone calls -- a statement that's never
appeared in print before today (at least not accurately).
Now, if you don't travel much, and even if you do, your reaction to
this statement may well be, "So?"
Sure enough, the Slingbox has always been intended to fill certain
niches. It's for people with a fancy satellite receiver downstairs in
the living room, but who want to watch upstairs in bed before
retiring. It's for the hotel-room prisoner who wants to watch a movie
on a TiVo at home, having realized that it's cheaper to pay $10 for a
night of high-speed Internet than $13.95 for an in-room movie. It's
for the traveler who wants to keep up with his hometown news while
And if you have friends who can't see the big game because of a local
broadcast blackout - really, really good friends - you could even let
them download the free Slingbox player software and watch your local
broadcast, though the Slingbox folks don't endorse this last use.
Now that all of this is available for cellphone viewing - with no
monthly fee - well, the mind boggles.