Blog Post

Why I’m Ordering the Boxee Box

I have to admit: I wasn’t so sure about Boxee’s prospects when Google unveiled its plans for Google TV earlier this year and reports about a completely revamped Apple TV device started to pop up soon after.

The fact that Boxee had to delay its launch date because of a decision to switch up its chip architecture late in the game didn’t really help either.

But having seen Jobs present the Apple TV, and having endured a painful presentation of Google TV at Google I/O, I’ve now made up my mind: I’m going with Boxee for my personal living room set-up. In fact, I just put in my pre-order for the Boxee Box.

Let me tell you a little bit about my current set-up first: I’m not actually a heavy Boxee user. I don’t have my PC hooked up to my TV, but instead I watch most online video on my Macbook. In that set-up, Boxee hasn’t really solved many problems for me. Sure, I use it from time to time to stay up to date. But at the end of the day, if I want to watch something on Hulu, I just go straight to Hulu.

So why add a box in to the mix?  One word: Family. Using a computer as a primary video-viewing device works great — until you need to get some work done while your daughter wants to watch Yo Gabba Gabba.

I’ve also been testing the waters with a number of video streaming devices in recent months, and I’ve fallen in love with Netflix on the living room’s big screen. Now I want more. I want the same instantaneous experience, but with additional content from other sources. I want to be able to stream local content from my NAS without having to worry about the video format, play vacation videos straight from my Kodak Zi8, and go to to watch Flash content all with the same device.

Well, guess what: Apple TV won’t offer any of this. Steve Jobs showcased a device that is little more than a Netflix streamer with a nice form factor. Google TV might be better suited for what I want, but it seems like Google is still very focused on adding online content to your cable or satellite service. I don’t have either, and my DVR has been collecting dust ever since I cut the cord and said good-bye to my cable company more than a year ago. So why buy a companion box if I don’t have anything to accompany it with?

Of course, chances are that Google TV will eventually have more apps than Boxee. For now, though, Google is putting most of its emphasis on the web. The company won’t release its Google TV SDK until 2011, and for now it’s simply advising web developers on how to get their sites and web apps up and running on its TV platform. Well, guess what: All of those apps and sites will also be available through Boxee.

However, what’s really exciting about Boxee to me is that its app ecosystem actually is not just open, but accessible, meaning that almost anyone with some XML knowledge can whip up his own application. That allowed a number of mashups and remixes, and I’m excited about the things that will come to Boxee from the developer community further down the line. Maybe, at some point, someone will even throw together a Yo Gabba Gabba app. My daughter would definitely dig it.

Related content on GigaOm Pro: TV Apps: Evolution from Novelty to Mainstream (subscription required)

28 Responses to “Why I’m Ordering the Boxee Box”

  1. carterjay

    What is the big deal with which box you do or don’t buy- these are cheap consumer electronics, which do not do everything, so chances are if you want everything available on the net you’ll buy more than one box- your hdtv does have more than one HDMI port right? If you’re replacing an $80/mo. cable subscription then you can afford almost every IPTV box out there over the course of just one year. However if you really want everything, then simply put up an HTPC system and stop complaining. BTW I own 2 Roku, 2 Xbox, 1 Viewsonic, 2 WD, 4 Kodak and 1 Zinwell settop boxes. They all do something different and all do somethings the same. Oh yeah and I own 3 net connected Blu-ray players and 2 HTPCs for 5 tvs. I don’t subscribe to premium cable or satellite services

  2. Ivo Jimenez

    The only thing that is stopping me for pre-ordering one is that besides having a Home Media Center I’d also like to have a light-weight subversion and file sharing server (sshfs or alike). Do you know if it’s possible? Would that be an overkill for the Box? What about downloading torrents permanently?

    Also, do you know if a RAID-configured drive can be attached to it?


  3. Yes, the Boxee box is interesting but all of them (Apple, Google) share a common problem. If you are going to put a box in your media center, no one solution from these vendors will do it all (now or possibly ever). PCs (or the Mac Mini) make an outstanding do it all solution that really isn’t that hard to setup. Want a wireless keyboard and a nice remote? No problem!

    As a previous commenter pointed out, WMC (with Windows 7 Home Premium), does quite a bit right out of the box. When you add a BluRay player and dual ATSC tuner, you have a solution that is easy to use and simplifies your living room. It’s not perfect, but neither are the alternatives.

  4. sure boxee is great (i love the app)- but am not very kicked about the box though. I am doing good with HTPC laptop with RF keyboard/MCE remote. my ideal combo would be – WMC+Boxee+ivi tv

    the boxee app may offer less features than the app embedded inside the box… lets wait n see..

    anyways, have fun with box, janko

  5. It sounds to me like most here have a “major” bias for either Google or Apple… you would think some of these folks might even be getting checks from these companies, the way they talk up their “competitive advangtages”.

    I think for too long the “little guy” has been pushed to the back burner as some sort of second class citizen, when it’s really their time to shine. Janko hit the nail right on the head when he said “…anyone with some XML knowledge can whip up his own application”… the rules for development are so much more relaxed then Google and Apples dev regiments, that developers will simply be more inclined in the beginning if not continuing to develop apps for a platform that doesn’t tell them what to do and what not to do. More people are especially likely to be able to make apps for Boxee first, which will extend the functionality of Boxee out even further then it is already over the competition.

    Apps like Navi-X and Netflix already bring many of the basic functions of GoogleTV and AppleTV already to Boxee for computers… I think people will eventually ask themselves the fundamental question… Why would I pay for content when the internet already provides me all the entertainment I need for free? (minus cost of internet of course)

    And with the proliferation of independent broadcasters and social media, I have a feeling things will change at a much faster rate than expected by people from either GoogleTV or AppleTV. Never under-estimate the “little guy” when it comes to computing… that will cost you in the long run.

  6. What people forget about Apple is that what starts out as an ok object can be translated into something much better with updates. Expect more functionality and maybe even app support.

  7. I was sold on Boxee Box and was waiting for it’s release until I learned more about Google TV.

    I’ve been experimenting with Boxee on PC hooked to my TV and it’s been a good experience. But I can’t help but think that Google is going to have more clout in the long run.

    Apple TV is not even under consideration; I am not paying per episode or per-season for shows when better alternatives like Boxee are out there.

    I am sure Google TV will have a good interface, too. My real question is going to be content. I understand Google TV will have live content. I want to know the sort of deals they will strike with content providers. In short, if I can get more in with Google TV then I’m willing to pay the $100 more up-front cost.

    But none of that is clearly defined yet. Looks like we will know in the coming weeks.

    That’s why I’ve held off preordering Boxee until I can learn more about Google TV.

  8. I already have a PC hooked to my main TV and I run XBMC and Hulu desktop on it. I cut the cable (actually fiber) recently and don’t have a problem. I just with NFL Sunday Ticket were available over the net to non-DirecTV subscribers.

    I thought about Boxee, but I can run the software on my PC now and don’t have to wait for the D-Link release. The remote is very nice and I may buy one when they start selling them standalone. My main complaint with Boxee is the horrible box design. It won’t fit well anywhere and seems to demand to be visible when I want to hide it. I wish Boxee the bext and am very interested to see where they take it.

  9. I went with the latest Mac Mini. I’m hoping the higher upfront cost will give me greater flexibility with running future apps like boxee and hulu. Besides I use iTunes for podcasts, streaming radio, iTunes share & shuffl’n.

    This market is still wide open and I’m not willing to place a bet on a vendor’s set-top box.

  10. Randy Arrowood

    Great post. I’m a huge boxee fan and look forward to the appliance. For Netflix, we can just use a wii, ps3 or xbox360 to stream movies. You know you have at least one of those sitting right there ;)

  11. Richard Evans

    Thank you for your comments Steve. It does appear that Netflix will be supported; See this thread:
    While the software version of Boxee supports Netflix Streaming, a Boxee spokesperson told HackingNetflix the following about Boxee Box Netflix Streaming support:

    “We’re working very closely with Intel and Netflix to make that the case. If not at launch then it should be available shortly thereafter. We hope to have a more concrete availability date next month.”

  12. gonzo90017

    “Using a computer as a primary video-viewing device works great — until you need to get some work done while your daughter wants to watch Yo Gabba Gabba.”

    Well there’s your 1st problem. Why not just buy another pc? If you buy one with Windows 7 you can install a TV tuner card and get OTA TV signals. This way you can also use it as a DVR. Plus Windows Media Center has Netflix.

    You can also install which will give you access to Netflix, Hulu, ABC, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, etc.etc..

  13. If your hoping the box supports netflix, I wouldnt get your hopes up, in fact, I seriously doubt it will happen. it would be nice, dont get me wrong. they keep side stepping questions about it on every forum Ive seen, and alot of people arent ordering for that reason alone. (including me) when I hear theyve worked something out with netflix and linux in general, ill order one, but, until then ill use it on my mac, and mythbox in the living room. looks nice though! :)

  14. Richard Evans

    I too cut the cable cord over a year ago and haven’t regretted it. I use an OTA antenna to receive HD broadcasts and I record out favorite shows on a HDD/DVD recorder STB. Everything else I download and play through the USB slot on my Oppo DVD player which will only accept Divx encoded programs so I have to convert everything. The Boxee Box will do everything I want it to do with the possible exception of Netflix which both Intel and Netflix are working with D-Link to solve. I love the RF remote which is the best design I’ve seen. Since the Boxee will stream from my NAS (Network Access Storage) I won’t have to use a flash drive to watch my videos or listen to my music. It also has a SD card slot so my camcorder HD videos can be viewed directly from the memory card. I too preordered a Boxee Box and I can’t wait. My setup is easy to use and the Boxee Box will make it even better by adding content while still being easy to use.