“Slimy Of The Week” Award Goes To… AT&T

On May 13, 2009

Okay… so it is all over the blogosphere that Slingplayer Mobile for iPhone will arrive in the next few hours. (As of this post it is live in the UK.) It is also well known that the original app was submitted a while back but was held up so that 3G access could be removed. Moreover, it is clear now that, as suspected, AT&T was the evil force behind the crippling of the app. Engadget has the full release and some scathing comments to offer. Comments based on such things as AT&T making a distinction between "dumb phones" and "smart phones" even though some of those "dumb phones" are pretty smart and VERY video savy. Comments based on AT&T suddenly stating that it considers "smartphones like the iPhone to be personal computers in that they have the same hardware and software attributes as PCs." and that, as a result, a different standard applies to it than other phones. Comments based on the fact that some phones on AT&T’s network ALREADY run Slingplayer and AT&T says nothing.

All of this is annoying. It is not, however, the reason I am giving AT&T the "Slimy of the Week Award". This is…

a little over a month ago AT&T tried to change their Terms of Service to include this

This means, by way of example only, that checking email, surfing the Internet, downloading legally acquired songs, and/or visiting corporate intranets is permitted, but downloading movies using P2P file sharing services, customer initiated redirection of television or other video or audio signals via any technology from a fixed location to a mobile device, web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices and/or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition devices is prohibited.

CLEARLY this was directed right at Sling and the result of AT&T being worried about its network’s ability to handle the traffic. Okay, annoying… but so be it…

Then this… the uproar was SO great that shortly there-after AT&T retracted the new TOS and offered this…

The language added on March 30 to AT&T’s wireless data service Terms and Conditions was done in error. It was brought to our attention and we have since removed it. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Wow, many of us thought, they were stupid and actually apologized without any if ands or buts… just "we’re sorry". Impressive.

No friends, not impressive AT ALL. Just down right slimy.

What today has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt is that AT&T, seeing the horrible PR nightmare that was unfolding, decided to back off this approach, try to look like a good guy and apologize, and then just went and found another way to get to the same end. Instead of using the TOS to block the app they went after the app itself and because they are "partners" with Apple they simply got Apple to force Sling’s hand and make the change. Ugly, annoying, frustrating… but sadly, not surprising. (Remember, Apple did something similar with Podcaster.)

And THEN to add insult to injury, they go and use it as an opportunity to do PR for their WiFi network. As Engadget puts it

the carrier uses the opportunity to pimp its extensive WiFi network and says that you’re welcome to use SlingPlayer there; that’s all well and good, and yes, it’s cool that AT&T gives iPhone users free access to the hotspots, but it’s no substitute for the mobility of streaming Sling over the WWAN, which works really freaking well — just ask countless BlackBerry, S60, WinMo, and Palm users who are using SlingPlayer as you read this. The only material difference is that they can’t be touched — not as easily, at least, as iPhone users who are bound to the whim of Apple’s singular, all-powerful clearinghouse.

I’ll buy the app so I can review it for the site… but grabbing a used Windows Mobile device is looking kinda good right now…