It looks like Sling Media is still at it with new versions of SlingPlayer, this time it is SlingPlayer for Facebook. They’ve posted a short demo video of the product, still in development – to Facebook of course. The video is presented by Vicky Shum, Sling Media’s Head of Product Management, Retail Products. I worked with Vicky when I was at Sling since I was Beta Program Manager for all of the SlingPlayer Mobile products, and she was in charge of those products at the time. She was one of the people I missed working with the most when Sling gave me the boot. She’s an awesome, fun person and great to work with. As long as she’s still at Sling I have some faith they’ll do something good.
Speaking of the product, this is a SlingPlayer implemented as a Facebook App and it takes advantage of that by integrating social features. You can comment on the video you’re watching and post those comments to your Wall. Note, this is not Clip+Sling Part Deux, you can’t actually post video to your Wall. Though Vicky does say “In future releases we’ll be adding more social and sharing features” during the video. Maybe they will find a way to share video clips, but since Clip+Sling seemingly died mainly due to rights issues I’m not holding my breath.
Back when Clip+Sling was in development they did develop several ways for SlingPlayer to tell what the content was by analyzing the stream. Of course it would be trivial to do on a SlingLoaded device as it knows what the content is already. Perhaps they could resurrect that tech and use it to identify the content, and then link to existing, legitimate copies online – network websites, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, etc. That could make business sense too – use referral links to services and Sling could take a cut of the action.
It looks like Vicky was using Safari on a Mac for the demo. The existing web-based SlingPlayer only supports Safari and Firefox on Mac and IE and Firefox on Windows, and requires a proprietary plug-in. This new player, like the iOS, Android, and Windows Phone mobile clients, only works with the Slingbox SOLO and PRO-HD, as they’re the only models to encode to H.264. That’s encouraging, as H.264 support is common and Facebook is already full of such video. So I’m thinking this is a lighter weight app, perhaps Flash, and it will have broader browser support – like Chrome. That alone would be a major advancement. If so I hope they update the standalone web-based player as well – they can keep the old plug-in version around for those who need compatibility with older model Slingboxes.
If you search on ‘SlingPlayer’ on Facebook right now you’ll get a link to SlingPlayer for Facebook on apps.facebook.com, but the page errors when I try to go there. I suspect access is locked down to only beta testers and that’s what happens if your account is not authorized to access it. But it is something to keep an eye on.
While it is nice to see this is in the works, I really hope they get some of their other SlingPlayer products out first. They showed off SlingPlayer for Google TV back in January at CES, and it entered beta in June, yet we still haven’t seen it. They have SlingPlayer for Android phones and tablets already. The version shown at CES was a Flash-based web page, maybe the delay is because they decided to do it as an app for Google TV 2.0. That might be for the best since Adobe just decided to drop the Flash plugin for TV devices – like Google TV. Either way, let’s have it already!
And then in June they showed off a similar SlingPlayer for Boxee. But that hasn’t released yet either. I think it is really cool that they’re doing these SlingPlayer clients – as I’ve said before, I argued for this approach instead of doing the SlingCatcher when I worked there. But it is just a tease if they don’t release. I’d hope they do other versions as well – Roku, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Blu-ray Java, etc. Get SlingPlayer on as many devices as you can and it’ll create demand for the Slingboxes, which is where they make their money.
So bring out SlingPlayer for Facebook – but let’s get those two versions first, we’ve been waiting. Please!
Dave Zatz of Zatz Not Funny pulled the video from Facebook and posted it to YouTube. Sling Media has posted an official version to YouTube: