Why I’m Not Buying A Boxee Box


Yesterday, Janko wrote up all the reasons why he has already pre-ordered a Boxee Box. And today, I’m going to tell you why I think it’s a sucker’s bet.

It’s no big secret that I’m a Boxee skeptic. Let’s just get that out of the way. In our 2010 prediction piece, I suggested that the Boxee Box would be a bust. That prediction seems more likely to come true now, ever since the release date was pushed back from the second quarter to early November. Not just that, but now both Apple and Google have announced competitive products ahead of Boxee’s release date.

There are many reasons why I think the Boxee Box will have issues, but let’s boil it down to the basic reasons that I won’t be buying one.

For one thing, I question Boxee’s ability to offer a consistent user experience between its media center software and its set-top box. The beauty of Boxee is that anyone can build an application to deliver any web video to the TV set; the problem is that they can build those apps whether they own the content or not. Now that it’s a hardware play, Boxee can’t expect to remain an open platform and not have media companies try to block it from serving up content it doesn’t actually have the rights to.

Does anyone really believe Hulu won’t try to block Boxee from serving its TV shows as soon as the set-top box is available? What happens when a user buys a Boxee Box thinking that it will have a working Hulu application, only to find that app is just one of many that are unavailable?

Issues of content aside, the Boxee Box is overpriced for what it is, especially when you consider that Apple has found a way to price its broadband set-top box at $99, and even moreso when you compare its pricing to the Roku Player, which starts at $60. The Boxee Box, quite frankly, isn’t as much of a value when you look at the other options already available on the market.

But the biggest reason why I won’t shell out $200 for a Boxee set-top box is that it’s a band-aid. In that respect, Boxee is hardly alone. Apple TV, Logitech’s Google TV box and even Roku are all trying to solve a short-term problem — lack of internet content on the TV — with a short-term solution: adding another device into the living room. With consumer electronics manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, LG and the like adding connectivity directly into their TVs, and with carriers like AT&T working on routing IP video through their set-top boxes, the need for a separate box is quickly disappearing. The truth is that the Boxee Box is damn near obsolete, before it has even become available.

All that said, if you absolutely must buy a box to get web video on your TV, do yourself a favor and don’t spend $200 on a underpowered PC with unsanctioned video apps built by third-party developers whose content is bound to be blocked. Pay half as much for a top-of-the-line Roku box that has a lot of the same content, provided by the content owners themselves.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: Three Reasons Over-The-Top TV Apps Will Beat Big-Cable (subscription required)

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