Sling Media
The Slingbox is designed to sit atop your TV and then broadcast it to your home Internet network. From there, you can access it anywhere on the Internet with a Slingbox-enabled PC -- and now, a phone.
By Columnist
updated 1/5/2006 2:02:00 PM ET 2006-01-05T19:02:00

A few weeks ago, I told you about a terrific invention called Slingbox — a way to connect your TV to your high-speed Internet connection so that you can watch your home television service from any computer anywhere in the world.

I also hinted that soon there would be Slingbox software which would let you watch and control your home TV from not just a laptop, but a cell phone. Today, the geniuses at Slingbox made the handheld version a reality.

The official announcement came here at CES, but I’ve been testing a beta version of the Sling Player Mobile software and I have to tell you — it’s an absolute blast.

The new Slingbox software works with smart phones running the Windows Mobile Pocket PC operating system. Installation is fairly straightforward. First the program checks to make sure you have the latest version of the PC software on your computer, then loads the new handheld software onto your computer which, in turn, installs it directly onto your Pocket PC .  I used the Sprint PPC-6700 smart phone as my test platform.

You need to add your Slingbox’s ID number to your Pocket PC program. It’s the 32-digit alpha-numeric identifier that you were supposed to have saved when your originally installed your Slingbox. Don’t worry, you can find it inside the Edit Properties screen in your Slingbox PC software.

The first time I booted the new handheld program it took something like 20 to 30 seconds to find my home Slingbox. After that, it was love at first sight. I was watching and controlling my TV wirelessly through a handheld device.

You can watch the small screen in the regular mode or in the larger horizontal-landscape mode. Picture quality was terrific in New York when the device was able to easily access the high-speed EV-DO network, but a lot less so in Las Vegas where the device was relegated to the slower 1xRTT network as thousands of showgoers try to access every wireless network in town at the same time.

You can program a set of soft buttons, located just beneath the screen, for your favorite TV channels or you can punch in the channel yourself. Overall, I would rate the experience of watching your home TV on a handheld a 10 on a scale of one-to-ten.

I’m not the only person who thinks so. Waiting for my plane to take off on my way out to Las Vegas, I watched Slingbox on my handheld. You should have seen the stir it created on the plane. Everyone wanted to watch — and try it for themselves. The coolness factor for this is completely off the scale.

The new mobile software should be out of beta soon, and available on the Slingbox Web site. The Slingbox itself sells for $249.99; it's unclear yet whether there will be an additional fee for the mobile software. The Slingbox people tell me that the software should run on both Sprint and Verizon Wireless’ 6700 Pocket PCs. Adjustments will have to be made for Palm’s new Treo 700w and others with square rather than rectangular screens.

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