See this unassuming little gadget to the right, here? It’s something called a Slingbox, and it allows you to redirect your television’s output to another device. Like, say, your computer. Or your cell phone:
Embracing a technology that has unnerved media and telecommunications companies, a major European wireless provider will let customers watch their home cable TV on a cell phone if they also have a device called the Slingbox back at the house.
3 Group will launch the new service in Britain first, starting Dec. 1, followed by three more of its 11 markets in early 2007, the wireless company announced Thursday.
Two new handsets running on 3′s next-generation wireless network will feature the Sling application, which customers can use to watch any channel available on their cable TV at home. The phones also can be used to control a digital video recorder at home, pausing and rewinding live television, playing previously recorded shows, or setting up the DVR to record a program.
We’ve all been on the road and seen a driver much more interested in the conversation he’s having on his cell phone than on keeping his car in the proper lane. Can you imagine the implications of people on the go being able to—when they suddenly realize they’re not going to be home in time for Dancing With the Stars or whatever other show they’re hooked on—use their phones to set their DVRs? Or, even worse, being able to peek in on Oprah’s Favorite Things during a boring staff meeting? Really, the unfortunate traffic and social situations that could arise from this capability are staggering.
And here I’d thought it was big news when Cartoon Network started making shows available for cell phone download. That’s old technology and old news, I guess. But this latest development is not without possible snafus:
Slingbox presents a potential problem not only for the media companies that own the content, but for phone and cable companies worried that streaming video and other high-bandwidth uses may clog their networks — while generating no extra revenue for them.
Technology like this intrigues and horrifies me. I can’t look away! Part of me thinks that the restrictions that the content owners will start slapping on this stuff is completely justified (after all, they deserve revenue from their product) and will curb the abuse that such easy availability could cause… but another part of me wonders what it could be like, in a world where all the networks are at our fingertips. Just so long as I don’t have to drive near anyone who doesn’t know how to put their cell phone down, that is.