Your Slingbox Will Be A Useless Brick In A Few Years

from the you-don't-own-what-you-buy dept

Remember the Slingbox? It was a piece of hardware by Dish subsidiary Sling Media that let users beam TV content from your home cable box to anywhere else. Sling was public enemy number one among entrenched cable and broadcast industry gatekeepers, because its products (*gasp*) not only made life easier on consumers, but at one point integrated ad-skipping technology. Back in 2013 the broadcast and cable industry was so pissed at Sling, it managed to get a best-of-show CES award retracted by CNET and CBS simply because the industry didn't like the disruptive nature of the company's technologies. Ah, memories.

This week, Sling Media announced that all Slingboxes will effectively become useless paperweights in a few years. In a company announcement, it says the technology will no longer work at all as of November 9, 2022:

"Slingbox servers will be permanently taken offline 24 months after the discontinued announcement date (November 9, 2020), at which point ALL Slingbox devices and services will become inoperable.

Until then, most Slingbox models will continue to work normally, but the number of supported devices for viewing will steadily decrease as versions of the SlingPlayer apps become outdated and/or lose compatibility.

The shift isn't particularly surprising given that the streaming era has effectively made such technology irrelevant. Users can now obtain streams of numerous apps on any platform they like. And software like Plex similarly let users stream content from their home PC anywhere they have a reliable internet connection. Streaming from your home cable box isn't as popular because people are not only cutting the cord at a record pace, they're shifting to streaming platforms that are inherently more flexible. Evolution made Sling irrelevant. The company kind of explains this all to users, but not really:

Q: Why is Slingbox being discontinued?

A: We’ve had to make room for new innovative products so that we can continue to serve our customers in the best way possible.

Q: Will Slingbox be releasing any new products?

A: No.

At the same time, it's yet another example of how in the modern era, you simply don't really own the things you buy. Firmware updates can often eliminate functionality promised to you at launch, as we saw with the Sony PlayStation 3. And with everything now relying on internet-connectivity, companies can often give up on supporting devices entirely, often leaving users with very expensive paperweights as we saw after Google acquired Revolv, then bricked users' $300 smart home hub. Now it's the Slingbox's turn to head to that great gadget graveyard in the sky.

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Filed Under: brick, end of life, ownership, slingbox, streaming, tv
Companies: sling media


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Nov 2020 @ 6:52am

    And someone will made one that runs on a Raspberry Pi with an open architecture & the industry will flip out again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 11 Nov 2020 @ 7:36am

    Self-contradicting

    A: We’ve had to make room for new innovative products...

    Q: Will Slingbox be releasing any new products?

    A: No.

    So one of those is a lie.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    davetechdirt02 (profile), 11 Nov 2020 @ 7:58am

    Whatever.
    Boxes are under $200 USD.
    Buy a replacement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2020 @ 8:12am

    Your Slingbox Has Been A Useless Brick For A Few Years

    FTFY

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2020 @ 8:14am

    It’s not really that you don’t own it, but rather you’re relying on services run by another party. The question is whether or not those services are actually required to accomplish the function of the device, or have been placed there to prevent you from using your purchased device in ways the company doesn’t like.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 11 Nov 2020 @ 8:22am

      Re:

      "It’s not really that you don’t own it, but rather you’re relying on services run by another party"

      Yeah, in this case it's not so problematic as the reason for the device is to access a specific service. This isn't like a typical IoT device that does things that should be possible without the service connection but gets bricked when that service dies.

      Think more like an alarm device that doesn't work when it can't communicate with the security company when they go out of business and less like a Nest that can't control your heating because some random server got shut down.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2020 @ 9:25am

        Re: Re:

        Many IoT devices perform a function that doesn't seem to require a centralized server. However, if you want to be able to control your device using your smart phone then the vast majority of users will require that centralized service. Most people don't know enough about networking to follow simple instructions on how to expose your device to the internet, maybe support dynamic DNS and then how to connect a mobile app to your home device. The centralized service solves all these problems but creates new cost which must be borne by the users.

        Those of us who know how to do the above can thank all of those who don't for this pointless, costly and ultimately self-defeating subscription requirement.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 11 Nov 2020 @ 9:43am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "However, if you want to be able to control your device using your smart phone then the vast majority of users will require that centralized service"

          That's a design flaw, not an issue with the device. There's nothing to stop such a device from accessing your phone via your router and performing functions without ever leaving your home network. Lack of end user knowledge is not an excuse for external services being forced.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2020 @ 9:25am

      Re:

      " you’re relying on services run by another party."

      afaik, Many sling customers purchased said device when it was a standalone device. Subsequently, a firmware update forced usage of cloud services which killed the standalone option.

      How is this "not owning it"? You have no say in what or how it does anything and yet you paid money for it to do something that it no longer does ... although it could.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2020 @ 10:04am

    The new reality

    You can no longer own money. You merely hold it in trust for device makers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 11 Nov 2020 @ 10:17am

      Re: The new reality

      You've never owned money. It's literally just a promise from a government that a currency is valuable for exchange for goods and services, a value which changes beyond your control.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Miles (profile), 11 Nov 2020 @ 10:39am

    DIY Streaming

    I've learned how to stream over the internet without Sling or Plex.

    I use MythTv to record over-the-air TV (I live in the City of Seattle and pickup 78(!) TV channels.) I then move the stuff I'm interested in to my Ubuntu server where they are made available by my Apache web server. I also purchase DVDs and rip 'em. Inside the house I use Kodi to organize and play everything, and it's all stored where the web server can find them.

    I'm pretty sure they won't discontinue Apache in the near future.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2020 @ 12:33pm

      You fool!

      What have you done to us! Now the *IAA is going to realize that the Apache web server can be used to host pirated content and will begin campaigning to ban it!

      (Note to PaulT, seeing as seem to have a little trouble recognizing humour when you see it, this was a joke).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2020 @ 1:00pm

    Streaming from your home cable box isn't as popular because people are not only cutting the cord at a record pace

    Also, thanks to COVID, people are staying home more, and thus have direct access to the cable box, without the need for Sling as an intermediary.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2020 @ 1:51pm

    E-waste & right to repair legislation needed.

    If you choose to brick device as part of your business model, then you must make available under open-source friendly lic. both the device firmware & software that handles the back end.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 11 Nov 2020 @ 3:38pm

    2030 - "We regret to inform you that as of July 1st, your v1 smart toilet will no longer function when we take the servers offline. We suggest that you purchase one of our new and improved v3 models and repurpose your old model as a planter. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Also, we are dropping all support for our smart faucets as of December 1st, so if you still require water after that date, we suggest you make other arrangements such as buying bottled water."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    yodel, 11 Nov 2020 @ 4:08pm

    ridiculous

    If anyone is still using a Sling Box they're probably also still using a Motorola brick cell phone.

    Sling TV works great on any device you would be logging back in to your box with so it's time to at least move into 2017.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2020 @ 5:45pm

      Re: ridiculous

      Sling TV works great on any device you would be logging back in to your box with so it's time to at least move into 2017.

      Because update for update's sake right?

      People need to get off of these damn treadmills. They keep buying the same shit once every 6 months - 3 years, and get nothing for it except the "better security" available at the time of purchase.

      Don't even get me started on all of the OSS idiots that update to the latest bleeding edge build of a library the second it's available and then bitch and whine that their user's distros don't have it yet. (Quick! xkcd 927 a new package manager! That will fix the problem.) They are insufferable. One project, I won't name names but it had something to do with an intelligent aquatic species, demanded everyone update to the latest version of a GUI toolkit library because it allowed them to remove a whopping 5 lines of already written code from their source, that broke the build on any system without the latest version of said library. Eventually they just started building the library in-tree just to shut people up.

      Then people bitch about all the e-waste..... how about not throwing away perfectly good hardware just because a company wants to make another quick buck? Or better yet, buy hardware you can actually maintain yourself, and never spend the money again.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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