Boxee recently unveiled its new Boxee Box known as “Boxee TV”. With a built-in DVR that stores your shows in the cloud, Boxee TV will be able to record two shows at once from an over-the-air antenna or from unencrypted cable transmissions. The new Boxee box will sell at a competitive price point of $99 starting this November with a monthly cost of $14.95 for the DVR. The new box will still have apps including Netflix and VUDU as well as Boxee’s social sharing features. Gone is the innovative two side remote with a full QWERTY keyboard as is the funky shaped cube. Instead the box will take on a more traditional rectangular set top shape. Going forward, Boxee will also start to de-emphasize its ability to play a wide range of video formats. That cedes the every codec-you-can-imagine space to the Western Digital TV Live boxes.
Just as TiVo has, Boxee has moved from being a disruptor to a player that’s looking to partner with the cable companies. One has to wonder if Boxee will be TiVo’s patent cross-hairs. The new Boxee box has a few things going for it. Since your shows are stored in the cloud, Boxee can virtually store almost an unlimited amount of content. Boxee can also stream content to almost any device with Internet connectivity. Boxee is also aided by the recent FCC ruling allowing cable companies to encrypt basic digital cable. Before a cable company can encrypt the basic tier, they must provide a way for Boxee TV (and boxes like it) to access basic cable content via IP. Before the decision, Boxee and Comcast had already inked a deal stating as much. On the negative side, consumers will only be able to record a portion of the cable line up. Also, folks interested in cutting the cord may not be too keen on spending $14.95 a month for the DVR. To learn more about Boxee TV, here’s a good background story on Boxee’s strategy and the announcement from Boxee themselves. Zatz Not Funny also compared the Boxee solution with Simple.TV and TiVo. By the way, the DVR functionality will be initially available in the top eight markets in 2012 with more to follow in 2013. No word on when it will be available in the Hub.
To dive deeper on the FCC’s recent decision to allow for the encryption of basic cable: Cable companies argued for it to help prevent theft of service as well as reduce the number of visits from the cable guy; resulting in a reduction in carbon emissions. The new rule will require some type of set top box or CableCARD on every TV. I wonder if the reduced carbon emissions will be offset by all of the additional cable boxes that have to be manufactured. Some institutional users such as the City of Boston will need hundreds of boxes for their cable connected TVs to still work. One thing to remember about the FCC’s decision: It allows but does not require cable companies to encrypt basic cable. Don’t be surprised if some providers including Verizon FIOS decide not to encrypt their basic cable offering.