Boxee today (Oct. 16) announced a $99 Boxee TV set-top device that combines Internet streaming video and audio apps, dual tuners for antenna-based and basic-cable TV reception and a $15-per-month unlimited online DVR service. The device goes on sale Nov. 1.
It's an about-face for a company that has won affection from geeks for making software — and later selling a $230 Boxee Box set-top device — that allows people to receive Internet video and music and share what they are watching with friends. Boxee had allowed anyone to build their own apps, eventually totaling nearly 400, that customize the viewing experience.
But Boxee today is shifting from a "for geeks by geeks" to a "for the people, by geeks" philosophy, spokeswoman Liz Dellheim told TechNewsDaily. It's discontinuing the old Boxee Box and radically simplifying the user experience.
According to Dellheim, customers were using just five of the Boxee apps 90 percent of the time. The new device will launch with those five: Netflix, Vudu, YouTube and Vimeo for video and Pandora for music.
Other apps, such as Spotify, will come in the future, Dellheim said. But the device will support nowhere near 400 apps, she said, and users will no longer be able to create their own. Nor will the old Boxee Box be able to run the new Boxee TV software.
The new box is less of a "cord-cutting" device, having the ability to receive basic-cable, analog TV broadcasts. Its dual tuners can also pick up standard-definition and HD signals via antenna. Customers can record as much of that as they want with a $14.99-per-month online DVR service. (The company had previously sold a $49 add-on that provided a TV tuner, but no DVR capability, to the old Boxee Box.)
Users pay month-to-month, and they can discontinue service for up to a month without losing their recordings. They can view those recordings not only on the Boxee TV but anywhere with Internet service, on any device with a Web browser, such as PCs and Macs, smartphones and tablets. (There are no dedicated apps, simply the ability to play video in a browser.)
Other than the optional DVR service, Boxee will not charge any other fees for using the device. Nor will there be any ads on the device, at least for now.
Boxee TV is just one of several options to get Internet video on the big screen. A fast-growing number of " Smart TVs " provide similar online video services. And people with regular sets can buy the $99 Apple TV, which features Apple's vast catalog of TV and movie tiles for purchase or rental. It also receives video and audio streams from Macs, iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. Also, Roku makes set-top boxes, starting at $50, that support a large number of streaming video and audio apps. Neither device has a TV tuner, however.