Friday afternoon at Sling Media’s HQ in San Mateo, we got a look at a prototype for one of the first entrants in the bring-Internet-video-to-the-TV race: The SlingCatcher, a sort of Slingbox-in-reverse that should hit the retail shelves sometime this summer, priced at $200 or less.
Handling it quite literally with kid gloves (OK, they were cotton gloves so he didn’t scratch the surface), Sling’s PR director Brian Jaquet lifted the device out of a box and showed it off — with component ports as well as S-video, HDMI and a couple USB ports, as well as Ethernet, the SlingCatcher is ready to sit between your PC and your big screen, to bring those grainy YouTube clips (or maybe something higher definition) to the living room. The unit, about half the size of a basic Slingbox, also has a hard drive on the bottom of the unit, with a USB port for local storage.
While all the details (including the name, which might change between now and then) won’t be revealed until a press conference in Las Vegas Sunday night, the Sling folks gave us a green light to talk now; according to Jamie Odell, Sling’s VP of product marketing, the SlingCatcher is different from other digital media servers because it just relays whatever is on your PC screen to your TV, without file conversions.
“It works completely independent of how the media was encoded,” Odell said of the SlingCatcher, “so you don’t have to worry about what file format it is.” Though it’s not a wireless router, the SlingCatcher will have wireless support, so you can send material via your local WiFi net. It also works with a regular Slingbox to let you send a cable signal or DVR material from one TV to another in your house, or at a remote location — so instead of watching those movies on the road on your laptop, by carrying around a SlingCatcher you could instead watch them on the hotel or condo’s TV.
Sling has a couple other tricks up its sleeve, which we should hear about tomorrow night, so stay tuned.