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Sling tries for a Solo home run

The company just recently acquired by EchoStar has a new Slingbox model just in time for the holidays.

Erica Ogg Former Staff writer, CNET News
Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.
Erica Ogg
3 min read

After hitting a veritable grand slam with its sale for $380 million Monday, Sling Media is back at the plate already, hoping to connect for another hit with its next Slingbox.

Still buzzing from the news of its acquisition by EchoStar, the Foster City, Calif., company is expected to release a new model of its place-shifting gadget on Thursday. This version will be called the Slingbox Solo, and its features and price fall right between the high-end Slingbox Pro and low-end Slingbox A/V, both released exactly one year ago. (Sling also confirmed that it will not be refreshing the Slingbox Tuner, the previous lowest-end model, which connects only to a TV, not a set top.) Like its siblings, the Solo allows TV subscriptions to be transmitted wirelessly to remote devices like mobile phones and notebook PCs via its SlingPlayer software.

Slingbox Solo
The new Slingbox Solo Sling Media

The Solo is a slightly tweaked version of the original Slingbox, but with a new combination of features. First, what will stand out to anyone familiar with the traditionally red Slingbox is that the Solo comes in shiny black. It keeps its recognizable trapezoid form, but will likely blend a little better with the average home theater enthusiast's setup.

It's also going to be HD-compatible. It has composite and S-video inputs and outputs for standard-definition connections to set-top boxes, as well as a component video input and output for users with high-definition boxes. There is only one audio input, however.

Sling says it aims to position the Solo as its mainstream product. Place-shifting is still a concept that the less-than-technical consumer may not understand, but now that the company is part of a high-profile satellite and DVR company, it's likely to get a lot more visibility coming into the holiday season. As broadband adoption and the availability of HD channels and services grow, and more consumers become accustomed to watching video on mobile devices and computer screens, the concept will likely begin to make more sense to a wider group of retail shoppers.

Sling is also taking a more global focus: The new Solo will be available tomorrow for $179.99 in the U.S., but also Canada, United Kingdom and The Netherlands simultaneously. It usually delays its international releases until well after a product's American debut.

While the actual product isn't groundbreaking compared with the company's previous releases, it is the first Slingbox in a year. Now that the company is part of EchoStar, it's likely that the infusion of capital and access to more technology--which Sling CEO Blake Krikorian is now gleefully eyeing--will ratchet up the speed with which it can release both updated hardware and new software and services.

For example, the Clip + Sling software is still supposed to be released by year's end, Sling says, but it won't be more specific. First announced at CES in January, Clip + Sling shows how Sling sees itself as a media company, not just a hardware hawker. The device will enable users to take clips of live TV and send to anyone, not just fellow Slingbox owners. The likely hang-up with the software's rollout is content partnerships--as of January only CBS had signed on to allow some of its shows to be used.

Again, latching onto a company like EchoStar, which has long-established relationships with content owners, could make those partnerships that Sling is looking for fall into place that much faster.

An in-depth hands-on evaluation of the Slingbox Solo--including a video of the product in action--is available at CNET Reviews.