Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

AT&T: We Crippled SlingPlayer TV App

apple-iphoneMystery solved, sort of: AT&T is taking the blame for crippling the SlingPlayer iPhone app.

The program, created by Echostar’s (SATS) Sling group, is designed to let users watch TV shows, beamed from their own sets, on the  iPhone. It goes on sale for $29.99 today via Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes store–but without the ability to work over AT&T’s 3G network.

That’s our decision, says AT&T (T). The company’s rationale: The iPhone’s too powerful, and our network isn’t powerful enough.

That’s the gist of its argument, which both makes sense and confuses. AT&T says the Sling app could consume lots of network capacity, which is straightforward enough. But you can already use Sling apps for other handsets, like the BlackBerry, on AT&T.

The difference, AT&T says, is that the iPhone really isn’t a phone at all, but a PC that happens to make phone calls. “We consider smartphones like the iPhone to be personal computers in that they have the same hardware and software attributes as PCs.”

No argument there, either. But again, given that you can use the SlingPlayer over AT&T’s spectrum using different devices, it seems as if AT&T is really making a different argument: Just because you can watch TV on other devices doesn’t mean you will. But if we give people the chance to watch TV on iPhone, they’ll flock to it–and our network can’t handle that.

See for yourself. Here’s AT&T’s full statement, via Engadget:

Slingbox, which would use large amounts of wireless network capacity, could create congestion and potentially prevent other customers from using the network. The application does not run on our 3G wireless network. Applications like this, which redirect a TV signal to a personal computer, are specifically prohibited under our terms of service. We consider smartphones like the iPhone to be personal computers in that they have the same hardware and software attributes as PCs.

That said, we don’t restrict users from going to a Web site that lets them view videos. But what our terms and conditions prohibit is the transferring, or slinging, of a TV signal to their personal computer or smartphone.

The Slingbox application for the iPhone runs on WiFi. That’s good news for AT&T’s iPhone 3G customers, who get free WiFi access at our 20,000 owned and operated hot spots in the U.S., including Starbucks, McDonalds, Barnes & Noble, hotels, and airports. AT&T is the industry leader in WiFi.

[Image credit: Markhillary]

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