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Summary:

Boxee is back with a new devices that focused squarely on broadcast content: The new Boxee TV comes with two tuners for over-the-air content and unlimited DVR recording space in the cloud. The company’s existing Boxee Box will be put into maintenance mode.

BoxeeTV-perspective

Boxee plans to announce a new device dubbed Boxee TV Tuesday that aims to combine over-the-air broadcast content with a cloud DVR and streaming services like Netflix and Vudu. Boxee TV will allow consumers to record two shows at a time, and upload each and every recording to the cloud, where it will offer unlimited storage for recorded shows. The new product is a big step for Boxee, whose Boxee Box device never managed to attract an audience beyond early adopters. “This is no longer for geeks by geeks,” Boxee CEO Avner Ronen told me during a recent phone conversation.

Boxee’s new UI focuses squarely on TV content.

Boxee TV will go on sale for $99 on November 1. The cloud DVR service will cost consumers an additional $15, which is only slightly cheaper than a month-to-month TiVo subscription, but Boxee hopes to make up for it with added features. Recordings stored in the cloud will be available for streaming both on Boxee TV as well as on any device with a web browser, including iPads  and mobile phones. Native apps for Android and iOS will launch at a later time, said Ronen.

Boxee will roll out the DVR service in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and D.C first, with Ronen telling me that the company wants to make sure that the cloud DVR infrastructure can scale up to the challenge. A launch in additional markets is planed for 2013.

The new Boxee TV device will come with a limited number of apps, which will include Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, Vimeo and Pandora. However, many of the apps available on the existing Boxee Box won’t make it onto the new device. “We don’t believe that the user experience gets better with a thousand apps,” Ronen told me.

Boxee TV will come with a limited number of apps.

Boxee TV is being manufactured by D-Link, which also made the original Boxee Box. But aside from that, there are few differences between the two products. The Boxee Box looked like a futuristic cube; Boxee TV uses a much more standardized — and thus stackable — form factor. The Boxee Box emphasized social discovery and artsy Vimeo videos while Boxee TV focuses squarely on TV shows, with TV programming running in the background as soon as you turn on the device. The Boxee Box was based on an Intel chipset; Boxee TV uses a CPU from Broadcom.

Boxee also completely rebuilt its software from the ground up, ditching the code base of the XBMC open source project and replacing it with a customized embedded Linux solution. “It was very liberating for us,” Ronen said about this step.

The introduction of the new device means that Boxee will put the original Boxee Box in maintenance mode, with Ronen telling me that the company won’t be rolling out any major firmware updates for it anymore. That likely won’t go over well with Boxee’s small but very vocal base of early adopters.

Boxee TV will offer unlimited recording space in the cloud.

Ronen said that the company will soon announce a kind of loyalty offer for existing users who are willing to switch over to the new platform, but he also didn’t make a secret out of the fact that Boxee TV is meant to target a different and potentially much larger user base. “When you start a company, you want to solve a problem for yourself,” said Ronen. Now, Boxee was out to solve a problem for mainstream consumers ready to cut the cord, and generate revenue for the first time in its history, he added.

Boxee’s cloud DVR subscription service comes at a time when there’s a bit of a comeback for over-the-air, in part because consumers have been running into restrictions with some over-the-top content. Shows like American idol still aren’t available as full episodes online, but can be viewed for free and in HD via over-the-air broadcast feeds. A number of companies is looking to capitalize on those feeds and combine them with streaming and online apps. New York-based Aereo has been sued for its offering, and Simple.tv launched its DVR for cord cutters earlier this week.

  1. I’m curious about the quality of the OTA picture being routed through the box. I don’t own a Boxee Box but I know it has an adapter. I thought I read that the picture isn’t as great compared to a straight feed from antenna to TV. Also, what quality will the DVR’d vids be stored to their cloud service? The review of simple.tv (thanks Janko!) said the quality was suspect.

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    1. They told me they’re gonna stream 1080p from their cloud DVR. Not sure about the bitrate though.

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  2. So when it’s reported that they will have “…over-the-air broadcast content…”, does that mean the ability to plug in an OTA antenna for DVR service, or that one can access live OTA content via the internet through the box?

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    1. Plug in an antenna. The device apparently gets sold with a basic antenna.

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  3. Why not just have the broadcasters store their own terrestrial feeds in the cloud and give users access like in the UK? This seems doomed if users have to save a copy, upload it, then download it again.

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  4. Fail! When is a company going to make a DVR that does not come with absurd monthly fee! The TV guide info is free or nothing to these companies!

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    1. Vulkano from Monsoon Multimedia has it. With that box you can watch your home life TV every where (through internet) and record any TV shows with a bild in DVR. You pay once about $99 for the box and once for the App download on tablets or smart phone $12 (on PC the Player is free). Thats all, about $ 112 and no more payments.

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      1. But the Monsoon Multimedia doesn’t have it’s own tuner…looks like you have to connect it through a cable box or another tuner to get Live TV

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  5. No Amazon? Pass.

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  6. This sounds too good to be true. UNLIMITED DVR? REALLY?

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  7. So how would this work? Do you need 15Mbps upstream bandwidth to record an MPEG-2 HD OTA program in the cloud? Or is Boxee doing the recording themselves and then making it available?

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    1. They’re going to compress it locally, then upload it. I haven’t seen it working, so I can’t say how instantaneous that experience is.

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    2. I wouldn’t think you would need anymore bandwidth then if you’re using Netflix, VUDU or Hulu.

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  8. I own a boxee box. This announcement is horsesh*t. No more firmware updates? And why would I want to move to a different model with less variety and functionality? Once again, the customer loses because a company is trying to “innovate” for $$$ and not user experience.
    Amazon app? Really? Who uses that?

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    1. Who uses Amazon? Really Stewart? I use it, and I’m not the only one. Do you know they have a service like Netflix that is cheaper and also includes free 2 day shipping on Amazon purchases?

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      1. And has less content than Netflix and has a horrible user interface

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      2. I actually used their on demand service years ago and was not very intuitive. It was pretty clunky.
        I’m sure it’s much better now, but I don’t see the connection between paying for a full year of prime when I can basically turn Netflix on and off (at $7.99 a pop) at will. And they also have tons of indie, documentary and educational films that amazon does not. Netflix continues to innovate in that way, where amazon is only concerned with what’s popular. People have been catching on with Netflix though and more will realize that media players such as boxee are set to become the norm. I can watch ANYTHING on my boxee. Yes, even HBO. It’s amazing what open source can give you.

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    2. Just because you don’t use Amazon doesn’t mean anything!

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    3. The current box will not just stop working, I have and have bought several Boxee Boxes for others. It’s unfortunate that the Boxee TV will have less features then the current box, but it may be able to be used as a companion box. We’ll just have to see what the next Boxee Box firmware update brings and what the new box does.

      I personally don’t use Amazon VOD much, but access it using PlayOn/PlayLater though my Boxee Boxes.

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      1. Trevor Heisler Friday, October 26, 2012

        I wouldn’t count on many more firmware updates for the Boxee Box.

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    4. Is your Boxee Box going to suddenly stop working?

      Was a promise of lifetime firmware updates promised to you when you purchased it?

      Would you rather see Boxee fold, their employees laid off and no further products ever released because they didn’t pursue a revenue-generating opportunity?

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  9. Too bad Denver is never in any of these tech launch markets. We like new gadgets (and cloud DVR service) here too!

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  10. OTA TV? so like network channels in HD?

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    1. Yes…and guess what…they are free! :-D

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