Although all-in-one home media centers are the trend replacing tradition subscription based television services, the latest device from Boxee looks to redefine the relation between technology generations of the new and old. Boxee originally came into the market with a unique take on home computer-based media center software and released their first set-top device, the Boxee Box, two years ago. Competitors, such as the Apple TV and Roku, have stole the show from the fledgling start up, though Boxee now hopes to change that.
The Boxee TV bridges the gap between on-air television, DVR functionality, and streaming content services. An included QAM tuner allows users to access free local HD over-the-air content using an antenna as well as allowing compatibility with current basic cable television subscriptions. Boxee TV's most intriguing feature is their "No Limits DVR". The dual DVR allows recording of two shows at once, or a consumer can watch a show while recording something different. Recorded programming, from the included tuner, is uploaded in HD quality directly to Boxee's cloud server. Subscribers to Boxee's $15 a month DVR service are given unlimited storage space on the cloud to fill with HD content. All content can not only be access later through the Boxee TV, but also anywhere the internet can be found through a browser based Boxee streaming service included with the subscription.
Along with the DVR functionality, traditional set-top media center box features, such as streaming content providers and a USB port for access to local media content, are included. Applications choices include Netflix, Pandora, Vudu, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Vimeo and others.
Though consumers might be lured by Boxee's unlimited streaming DVR promises, a few problems seem to arise.
First, the subscription service for the DVR will only be available at launch to a select few markets. These are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. More market are to be added sometime next year.
The $15 a month fee is also quite steep compared to services such as Aereo and Simple.TV. After a user adds in the subscription cost for Netflix and Hulu Plus, a la carte purchased content from other apps, plus the $15 for the cloud DVR service, the price resembles the satellite and cable television fees many consumers are looking to cut.
Also with the current trend of ISPs moving towards a monthly data limit, the "unlimited" DVR already seems to be limited. Although data caps can seem quite high, for example the $50/month package from Cox Internet allows for 250 GB per month, an hour of true 1080p HD content can easily run up to 2 to 4 GBs.
Although data download speeds are no longer an issue for most broadband subscribers, upload traffic is an issue waiting for consumers at the launch of the Boxee TV. Uploading a 1080p HD video to YouTube with the fastest internet packages available in most markets can still take two to three times the actual length of the video.
Boxee TV is pushing the envelope of the modern media centered content distribution model. Even though problems can be foreseen, the Boxee TV is an intriguing device that could eventually lead the way into a revolution of integrated cloud-based streaming services. Boxee TV will be $99, plus subscription, and launches on November 1st.