updated 09:00 am EDT, Thu May 14, 2009
SlingPlayer vs U-verse Rum
AT&T's decision to disallow 3G for the iPhone edition of SlingPlayer may have been motivated as much by desires to quash a competitor as it is to avoid congestion, a claim suggests. Although AT&T's official explanation is that streaming TV consumes too much bandwidth, a tip from Gizmodo purports that the carrier has the ulterior motive of crippling SlingPlayer to protect a future U-verse app. Supposedly called i-Verse, it would let subscribers to AT&T's IPTV service either stream live TV over the 3G network or else play shows already recorded on the DVR.
The move would push users to sign up for U-verse rather than use AT&T only for the iPhone service. SlingPlayer technically allows any compatible set-top box to stream its output through a Slingbox and so can work with rival TV providers or third-party DVRs, such as TiVo's devices.
Whether or not this is the motive isn't clear and is potentially controversial as it may run afoul of competition laws. However, AT&T has publicly acknowledge that it wants to tie the iPhone to U-verse and has mentioned moving DVR recordings to iPhones as one of its long-term goals. The source for the new rumor says that i-Verse has been in full development since a private preview earned a favorable reaction last year.
AT&T hasn't yet been available for comment but is expected to deny the allegations.
Critics have noted that, while AT&T claims its terms of service bar streaming live TV over a network, other smartphones like the BlackBerry Bold, Nokia 6650 and multiple Windows Mobile devices can all download SlingPlayer versions that specifically allow streaming over AT&T. The provider has argued that the iPhone is more powerful, though the Bold is theoretically faster and supports more software features, like multitasking.