Boxee, Inc. made a major announcement regarding their new focus: television. More to the point, unlimited recording of basic TV channels via a new Boxee TV set-top device.
Boxee has been in the media center business since its founding in 2004, but it’s mostly been viewed as either:
A) a now-defunct piece of really cool of freeware, based on the old Xbox media center kernel, that allowed your computer (and later your iPad) to do what a Roku and/or other media center devices did pretty well… that is, stream the content from the usual suspects: Netflix and Hulu mainly, but also Vudu, Pandora, etc. etc. ad absurdum; or
B) a weird piece of sculptural plastic manufactured by D-Link in partnership with Boxee that acted as a set-top solution to using the software. Beyond allowing your HDTV to play Netflix, Hulu and the other streaming services that have grown in popularity, but still aren’t ready to crush the cable behemoth that insists you pay well over $100 for bundled service of which you use, maybe, only a portion, the device didn’t do much else (nor did other devices that supported the Boxee freeware).
If you wanted TV, even the most basic, local channels, you still had to shell out for what cable companies call their basic tier of service or, if you were a bit more tech savvy and could sort out the selection at Frys, you could plunk down about $40 or more for a decent HD antenna capable of bringing in a local or distant HD signal, giving you access to CBS, NBC, ABC, local Fox and WB affiliates as well as PBS and an assortment of oddball channels that give you an idea of what pre-cable TV was like (THIS channel reminds me of the old Ted Turner SuperStation from the 80s).
Avner Ronen, CEO of Boxee, Inc. and Idan Cohen VP of Platform (development), co-founded the company with bigger goals in mind. They wanted to change the way people viewed content, and were keen on cutting out the middle man… service providers such as cable companies, so that the user had more direct access to a wider variety of content. Add to that a social networking function crucial to personalizing the experience and allowing users to share their opinions on content, and it’s clear that Boxee is interested in pushing the boundaries of how digital content is consumed.
Boxee, Inc. has married the Boxee freeware to a stronger set-top device that now allows for both the viewing of live basic HDTV channels (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, Univision and possibly others depending on what’s broadcasting over the air your your area) and the ability to record those channels as you watch another. Not only that, but the DVR service Boxee is planning on rolling out when the device goes on sale this November, will be subscription based, allowing for unlimited storage to the cloud. The Boxee TV device will allow a link up to basic cable (for an additional fee, of course) should broadcast OTA HD be limited in an area, but the beauty of the cloud-based recording will be in the ability to play shows back from a Boxee-supported device such as a Boxee Box or iPad/iPhone app (if you’re adventurous you can still get the Boxee source code so that a computer may act as a Boxee Media Manager, but the company no longer directly supports an app or program for non-mobile operating systems).
The cloud-based DVR service, which Boxee says will allow you to store every show from every season for every program you love, will initially be rolled out in major metropolitan markets like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City, though the company plans a wider expansion of the service in 2013 with the goal of going nationwide. The DVR service costs $14.99 per-month and will not allow a user to record licensed content from Netflix, Hulu or even YouTube among the other streaming services that the device will offer via pre-installed apps.
The device is expected to retail for $99, which puts it in line as a competitive product for holiday sales. It also makes Boxee appear to be a strong tech company that refuses to be forgotten about in the mish-mash of AppleTVs, PS3s, Xboxes and other devices looking to gain a foothold in the ever important area of content delivery for the HD home theater.