Nov 01 2012

News - Boxee TV Comes to Walmart

Boxee in WalmartThe recently announced Boxee TV is hitting the store shelves of the world's largest retailer, Walmart. The Boxee team was teasing that they had lined up a major exclusive retail partner for the Boxee TV, and it sounds like Walmart won't just be selling the Boxee TV, but will be helping out with some major promotion as well. In all honesty, I had assumed that this retailer would be Best Buy. Walmart is not the first place I think of when buying the latest in tech and gadgets, but it is difficult to understate the mainstream exposure that a Walmart end-cap can bring to a product. If Boxee and D-link can clearly communicate what the Boxee TV does, then this could be a major coup, though the impact of launching in time for the holday shopping season will be lessened by fact that the Boxee TV's cloud-based DVR is only going to be available in select markets at launch.

But now, with the Boxee TV, the startup has pulled off something special (or devilish depending on your view of the retailer) and managed to get the Boxee TV into Walmart.


Oct 17 2012

News - FCC to Allow Encryption of Basic Cable Channels

Earlier this year, Boxee and the Consumer Electronics Agency teamed up for a scuffle with the cable companies. The dispute arose as the FCC was reviewing rules that prevented cable companies from encrypting basic tier channels. Cable companies had been restricted from encrypting these channels for a number of years, but the FCC was reviewing whether the restrictions should remain in place as part of the review of the analog must-carry rules. Boxee and other consumer electronics manufacturers were concerned that they were about to be locked out of offering products that could be plugged directly into a coaxial jack. 

The FCC has decided to go ahead with raising the prohibition on basic channel encryption, but the 6 major cable companies will have to meet one of two criteria before they can move ahead. The cable companies can choose to offer converter boxes such as the ones that Boxee and Comcast agreed to work on this summer that will enable devices to receive the encrypted signal, with the stipulation that the convertors be made available for free for a minimum of two years. Alternatively, the cable companies will have to develop software-based decryption systems that can be licensed to CE manufacturers for inclusion in their devices. Undoubtedly the cable companies already have a phalanx of accountants crunching numbers to see which nets the greatest return in the long run: rental fees for the convertors or licensing fees for the software-based solution.

The days of plugging a TV into the wall and getting cable are coming to an end. After a lengthy review process, the FCC has granted cable operators permission to encrypt their most basic cable programming. But the commission is inserting a number of measures it's hoping will prevent the public from suddenly finding themselves without access and open the door for third-party set-top boxes like the upcoming Boxee TV. 

The Verge

Oct 17 2012

News - Boxee TV Gets Official, Packs DVR, Unlimited Cloud-Storage for Recordings, Slimmed Down App Selection

Images of the Boxee TV leaked last week, along with some early details about what to expect from the Boxee Box successor, but the Boxee TV is now official. As anticipated, the Boxee TV sports two TV tuners that finally add the DVR capabilities that everyone thought the Boxee Live TV would add to the Boxee Box, but the new DVR functionality probably won't be what most people were expecting. The Boxee TV does not come with internal storage for recordings, and though there are two USB ports, external storage is only for local media playback. The Boxee TV will save your recordings to the cloud instead. The cloud-based DVR will cost $15 a month and will be gradually rolled out, starting with 7 major markets at launch and then to other markets based on demand.

Boxee TV

The Boxee TV will be a major departure from the Boxee Box, and not just because of the inclusion of DVR functionality. The new device eschews the distinctive cube/pyramid stylings of the original in favor of more traditional rectangular settop box dimensions. The monthly fee is only required for those interested in the cloud DVR; everyone else will appreciate the significantly reduced $99 price tag. Unfortunately, also reduced will be the number of apps available on the Boxee TV. The wide range of apps for accessing online content sources was a distinctive feature of the Boxee software and Boxee Box, but the Boxee TV will only ship a handful of apps for major services such as Netflix, Pandora, and YouTube. The Boxee TV also will not support as wide a range of file types and containers as the Boxee Box for local media playback. Finally, the once-innovative remote control with a QWERTY keyboard on the flip side has been retired in favor of a more traditional remote control.

I suspect the Boxee TV is going to be a tough sell. The $15 dollar monthly fee for the DVR is going to be a tough sell, and heaven forbid you have an ISP with bandwidth limits. Every gigabyte of recorded TV will take 2 gigabytes of your allotted bandwidth; one to go upstream and one to go downstream. Remove the DVR, and the Boxee TV is a less capable iteration of the Boxee Box, and there will be no fleeing to the Boxee Box as it has been discontinued and Boxee is stating that it will not receive anything more than maintenance updates, a prosepct most will find laughable given the abysmal level of support the Boxee Box has received over the last year. Without the launch of the Boxee Live TV, it is unlikely there would have been any updates to the Boxee Box in 2012, an update that dropped in March and came with several major, unresolved issues. It should be interesting to see how long D-Link will give the Boxee team to show that they have a clear vision of the future for cord-cutters.

The Boxee TV attempts to address a large void in the TV segment: DVRs for cord cutters and casual cable subscribers. The D-Link-made set-top box can pull in over-the-air HDTV signals and unencrypted cable signals. The dual tuner setup also allows it to record two channels at once. Built off the lessons learned with the Boxee Box’s Live TV dongle, the Boxee TV includes every feature found in a traditional DVR. Best of all, like TiVo, it’s not tied to the cable provider and even works with over-the-air signals. But, also like TiVo, there is a monthly charge to use the cloud DVR of $14.99 a month. Yeah, that’s a lot.


Oct 16 2012

News - Roundup - October Never Sleeps Edition

RoundupIt is no secret that October tends to be a big month for those interested in technology. With companies gearing up for the holiday shopping season and jockeying to one-up the competition in pursuit of the dollars destined to stream out of our wallets, October tends to be a poor month to take a vacation if you spend your free time writing about technology. Alas, I do not control my vacation time, so here in one neat package I present one of our infrequent roundups, recapping in no particular order, some of the more important and interesting stories of the last week worth keeping an eye on.

Netflix Promises More Captions and Delivers on Windows 8

Media streaming services have gradually been adding closed captioning to their video content, and though few, if any companies can yet boast of having closed captioning for all content across all platforms, Netflix has come under particular scrutiny for its lack of comprehensive closed captioning support. Such are the travails when one is the 800lb. gorilla of the streaming media market. The National Association for the Deaf filed suit against Netflix over the issue and the company recently settled with NAD, promising to offer closed captions for all of its content by 2014. The cynic in me might want to focus on how it took a lawsuit to get Netflix to commit, but it should be interesting to watch other services scramble to match Netflix's new "feature".

The company has also agreed to speedily caption new content. The agreement says that Netflix will put captions on new content within 30 days by 2014; within 14 days by 2015; and within 7 days by 2016, "and shall strive to reach a point at which Conforming Captions are provided simultaneously with launch at all times."

Ars Technica

While Netflix's legal team was busy avoiding court time, Netflix's development team was courting the limelight with the release of their Windows 8 app. Windows 8 may still be a few weeks from public availability, but anyone running a final release version of Windows 8 can download the app for free from the Windows Marketplace. The Netflix team has obviously expended a great deal of effort tapping into the new Windows UI, striving to deliver a rich app that conforms to Microsoft's vision of app design for Windows 8 while remaining a distinctive Netflix experience. Unfortunately, the app also delivered a crushing blow to my hopes of using the new Windows 8 interface for an HTPC in the same manner that I have for past versions of Windows. Certain sections of the Netflix app are only accessible through touch or mouse control, rendering it impossible to fully utilize the app with a standard remote control.

The company behind the app seem extremely proud of their achievements with this Windows 8 app and are making it known that a lot of engineering and development work has gone into building the application from the ground up to give the maximum possible experience to users and to fall in line with the design fundamentals of Windows 8. The app affords users the ability to quickly browse through recommended media in the form of movies and television shows by making great use of the supported gestures in Windows 8.

Redmond Pie

Boxee TV Leaked

Next up we have the leaked details of the upcoming Boxee TV. The Boxee Box is coming up on its second birthday, so the possibility of a hardware refresh is certainly not surprising, but it sounds like the Boxee team has some big plans for the second generation of hardware. In addition to adopting a more mainstream form factor, the Boxee TV is expected to integrate the TV tuner that was previoulsy offered as an external dongle in the form of the Boxee Box Live TV add-on and also offer the DVR capabilities that left many wondering about the value of the Boxee Box Live TV. How close to release is the new Boxee TV? We know that Boxee has been ramping up their beta testing program, and anecdotally, a recent visit to the local Best Buy reveled the Boxee Box on clearance for a hefty 30% discount, so I suspect we won't have long to wait.

To make that live TV aspect more enticing, Boxee has thrown in DVR capabilities. Our tipster hasn't had an opportunity to give recording a run-through, but a survey delivered to beta participants hints that you'll be able to watch content across multiple devices — likely through Boxee's companion smartphone app.

The Verge

Sep 29 2012

News - Boxee Early Access Program Looking for a Few Good Testers

BoxeeIt sounds like the Boxee team has some big plans coming up for the Boxee Box and their online personal video sharing service, Cloudee. The company is putting out a call for people interested in being part of their early access program. Folks selected for the early access program will be given a sneak peek at upcoming Boxee updates and be given an opportunity to provide their feedback. If this sounds up your alley, be sure to fill out their survey.

We are working on some  great new stuff  at Cloudee and Boxee, we are looking to expand our “early access” program in the US to give more people sneak peeks of what we’re working on and to get their feedback. 

Boxee Blog

Jul 03 2012

News - Boxee and Comcast Reach Agreement, Developing System to Access Encrypted Basic Cable Channels

Boxee Live TV Screen

Back in February, Boxee and the Consumer Electronics Association announced that they were working together to convince the FCC not to overturn rules that required cable television service providers to offer basic tier channels unencrypted. The FCC had indicated that they were open to revisiting the rules regarding unencrypted cable channels as part of a required review of rules requiring service providers to offer both analog and digital transmissions. Cable television service providers, anticipating a relaxation of the rules requiring analog retransmission, were hoping to further streamline their digital offerings by turning on encryption for all tiers. Boxee, who had just recently released their Boxee Live TV add-on, was concerned that the move would shut them out as encryption would return cable television service to the days when every subscriber had to have a set top box all of the time.

In a filing with the FCC last week, Boxee and Comcast announced that they have come to an agreement and are working together to develop a system that would allow retail consumer electronics to access encrypted basic tier channels. Initially, the system would involve an ethernet-based digital transport adapter (E-DTA) that would sit between the set top box and the consumer electronics device. In the long term, their plan calls for a standard for an integrated E-DTA that would eliminate the need for a set top box or service provider supplied E-DTA. This does not appear to have any impact on the development of CableCard or AllVid, but would rather serve as a modern update on establishing cable-ready TVs and devices. Access for such devices would still be restricted to basic-tier channels. Although the agreement is only between Comcast and Boxee, the language does suggest that the two companies could offer the solution as an industry standard, however, without a timeline or specific details on which standards bodies would provide certification, it might be a good idea not to get one's hopes up until other companies or organizations start to weigh in on the concept.

Boxee users may soon be able to access encrypted basic cable channels, thanks to an agreement with Comcast.

In a June 27 filing with the Federal Communications Commission, the companies said they have resolved a dispute over access to Comcast's basic-cable tiers via devices like Boxee's Live TV dongle.

PC Magazine

Apr 13 2012

News - Boxee Box Sales at About 200,000 Units

I was a bit surprised when D-Link announced their new MovieNite media streamer the other day. After all, doesn't D-Link sell the Boxee Box? At $200, the Boxee Box is obviously targeted at a different market than the $50 MovieNite, but I would have expected D-Link to work with the Boxee team on producing a more limited version of the Boxee Box for introductory price points. However, a recent tweet from Boxee reveals one possible reason why D-Link may not have felt much incentive to build out the Boxee brand for new devices and markets. At the moment, Boxee is only reporting about 200,000 Boxee Box users. Undoubtedly some percentage of Boxee Box users are not going online and thus are not being included in Boxee's count of users, but it is unlikely that this constitutes a particularly large percentage, which means that D-Link and Boxee have only sold in the neighborhood of 200,000 Boxee Box units. The media streamer market has proven to be a tough nut to crack, but at 200,000 units, the Boxee Box is still going to be way down the list. Making the possible sales numbers even more disheartening is the acknowledgement that the defunct Boxee for PC software is evidently rocking 10 times as many users as the Boxee Box that the Boxee team has decided to concentrate all of its attention on.

The total number of Boxee Box users is around 200,000, according to a tweet sent out by the company Wednesday. The tweet also revealed that Boxee now has a total of 2 million users, if you include users of the discontinued PC client.


Feb 09 2012

News - Boxee and the CEA Join Forces Against the Cable Companies

Under current regulations, cable companies are generally not allowed to encrypt their basic, analog channels. This allows the tuners built into TVs and devices such as the recently launched Boxee Live TV to receive the channels without a settop box. Cable companies can request a waiver from the FCC to switch to a fully digital and encrypted system, but to date, the regulatory agency has been reluctant to grant such requests. However, the times are changing and the cable companies are spending big bucks lobbying the FCC to change the regulations to allow all cable companies to switch to fully digital and encrypted systems, a move that will effectively lock out any off-the-shelf consumer electronics with traditional tuners. Cable subscribers will instead be forced to use a cable company provided settop box or CableCard. 

Mr. Boxee Goes to Washington

Boxee has decided to get involved and throw their support in with the Consumer Electronics Agency, which has been vigorously opposing any change to the current regulations. Boxee recently gave a presentation to the Chairman of the FCC, demoing the Boxee Live TV and attempting to explain the negative impact on innovation and consumer choice that a change to the regulations would have. Like the CEA, Boxee isn't arguing that the cable companies do not have valid reasons to want to switch to digital systems, but that the decision should not be rushed and should instead be put off until a new system, such as AllVid, the FCC's proposed CableCard successor, can be established to continue to offer consumers a choice on what devices to use with their subscription service.

Cable companies have asked the FCC for waivers to these restrictions, arguing that encrypted channels would reduce piracy and that encrypted cable connections can be remotely serviced, eliminating the need for many service visits. The FCC is currently hearing all sides of the issue as it contemplates whether to do away with the restrictions and allow all cable companies to encrypt basic cable. Boxee has filed multiple letters with the commission and met with its staff last week.


Feb 02 2012

News - Boxee's PC client sails permanently into the night

We've all heard of it before.  Many use it.  Now it looks like today you can't get it for your PC.  Boxee's software is now only available for their Boxee Box and similar devices.  I don't use it but I think that more options are always good.

Boxee announced back in December that its PC client would be shuttered, and the time has finally come: Boxee will remove all copies of its app for PCs by the end of today. AsGigaOM reports, Boxee VP Andrew Kippen confirmed that the company will officially kill the PC client. In his original announcement, Kippen said that the future of TV will be driven by the Boxee Box and other connected devices, rather than PCs — the move makes sense, considering that even Microsoft has shied away from the HTPC crowd by focusing on developing the Xbox 360 ecosystem. 

The Verge

Jan 24 2012

News - Boxee Release Version 1.5

I saw the new UI that comes with 1.5 while at CES and found it to be a big improvement over previous revs. Besides that, the biggest feature "get" is probably support for live ATSC via the optional dongle, but those still having issues with HBR audio will have to wait however.

Full release notes on the click...

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