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Goring the Box

Nearpoints
Nearpoints
Nearpoints
6/28/2006

5:00 PM -- I'm a big fan of the Slingbox, and was quite impressed with their recent SlingPlayer Mobile announcement, which brings the on-demand TV you want to watch to a Windows Mobile/Windows Smartphone. (Why on Earth are there two different OSes here? Hello? Microsoft? You might want to check on the water quality in the marketing department.) This, to me, anyway, is the future of mobile video. Broadcasting is dead. TV commercials should be. Everything will be subscription, on-demand, and mobile.

But what happens when what you want bumps up against what your network supplier wants to sell you? I ran into a guy at a conference who works for a major hotel chain, and he was merrily playing with SlingPlayer Mobile. It was working just great, and, being a fan, I struck up a conversation. As it turns out, however, he was only using the system to try to figure out a way to block it on his hotel's WiFi networks!

Hotels, as you may know, used to earn significant revenue from telephone services. They need to put a phone in every room, connected to a PBX, for safety reasons. They rely on outrageous, operator-assisted, long-distance rates to recover their costs. With the rise of cell phones, the revenue they earn this way in many cases doesn't even cover the monthly maintenance cost of the PBX. So, they turned to on-demand video (movies) to boost revenues. Someone with SlingPlayer Mobile really upsets that applecart, and a lot of people with SlingPlayer Mobile absolutely set fire to it.

So, as a matter of telecommunications policy -- as if we had one in the U.S. -- should a carrier or provider get to decide what traffic goes over its network? Absolutely not! Carriers carry and providers provide; they don't edit. Editors, as I well know, do that. Any hotel that limits my access in any way will find me at checkout -- permanently.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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