Slingbox app approved by AT&T, just in time for iPad launch

The phone carrier has reversed course on the Slingbox application, which would let users stream video directly from their television or desktop to their iPhone – or Apple iPad.

The phone company has approved a Slingbox application for the Apple iPhone and the iPad.

Last May, AT&T put the kibosh on the Slingbox app, which would have let users stream video from their computer or television directly onto the small screen of the Apple iPhone or iPod Touch.

AT&T's rationale was simple: If the app took off, all that streaming Slingbox video would put a major strain on the 3G network, which was already struggling to keep up with data demands from the increasing pool of iPhone users.

Now, AT&T has reversed course, and approved a 3G version of the SlingPlayer Mobile app. (The app is currently available, but only accessible with a Wi-Fi connection.) In a statement accompanying the announcement, AT&T seemed to chalk the reversal up to "collaboration" between Sling Media and the cellular provider.

As Eliot Van Buskirk of Wired points out, the approval of SlingPlayer Mobile was probably merely a matter of lowering video and audio quality so the whole 3G network wouldn't explode.

"Some degree of AT&T oversight of apps makes sense," Van Buskirk writes, "because its poor wireless performance is, to an extent, a casualty of the iPhone’s runaway success. By working with developers to limit their apps’ bandwidth, AT&T hopes to give consumers what they want without further degrading its network."

As we wrote last month, there is some concern that AT&T will be able to manage the surge of network congestion created by the launch of the Apple iPad. But thus far, Apple has stood by AT&T, claiming the network is more than up to the challenge of handling the iPad.

"AT&T is a great partner," Tim Cook, chief operating officer at Apple said in January. "I think it is important to remember that they have more mobile broadband usage than any other carrier in the world. In the vast majority of locations, we think that iPhone customers are having a great experience from the research that we have done."

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