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Thursday, April 16, 2009, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

SlingPlayer for iPhone may be facing opposition from AT&T

An apparent delay in the approval of SlingPlayer's release on the App Store, coupled with unconfirmed reports that AT&T isn't keen on seeing the device make its way to the iPhone, has led to speculation that the wireless carrier is seeking to have the software rejected in its current form.

Formally announced at January's Macworld Expo with an expected release date of March, the SlingPlayer Mobile application promised to allow iPhone users to stream live television over WiFi or 3G by tapping into home TV setups equipped with a Slingbox. A built-in remote control function would reportedly allow for channel surfing and DVR setup.

Sling Media announced on March 26th that it had submitted the highly-anticipated application to the App Store for Apple's approval. It's been three weeks since then and the app has yet to gain Apple's approval, suggesting something is holding up its release.

During a media event to preview its iPhone 3.0 software last month, the iPhone maker touted its turnaround times on certifying applications for inclusion on the download service, saying it had approved 96% of apps submitted during the preceding two weeks, with 98% of those apps seeing approval in less than 7 days. So by the company's own standards, SlingPlayer's approval status has fallen below the curve.

Now, a new — albeit unconfirmed — report is fueling speculation that something may have gone awry during the application's approval process. BGR is citing an unverified source who claims that Apple plans to deny the application in its current form because AT&T has expressed concerns about its potential to saturate its 3G network.

Assuming the claim is accurate, Sling Media may need to alter the application to function along the lines of Skype for iPhone, which will operate over a WiFi connection but not 3G wireless networks. Such a move would obviously curb the appeal of the Sling application, making it inoperable more often than not. The claim is dubious, however, given that a version of SlingPlayer runs on several other AT&T devices like the BlackBerry Bold.



For its part, Sling Media has said that is has received no official word from Apple on the status of its submission.

Meanwhile, industry watchers are taking advantage of the matter to speculate that AT&T may have ulterior motives for requesting that Apple deny the application, if it indeed has chosen to do so. In particular, it's theorized that the wireless carrier may be close to making good on a promise to launch a similar service that would allow iPhone users to steer video recorders for its U-verse digital TV offering from their handsets.

A little over two weeks ago AT&T abruptly altered its terms of service to prevent services like SlingPlayer from running on its network, explicitly prohibiting "customer initiated redirection of television or other video or audio signals via any technology from a fixed location to a mobile device."

The carrier later reverted the terms of service, saying the change was a mistake.