Samsung Acquires Boxee for $30 Million

boxee live tvSamsung just stepped up their game in the Set Top Box division by purchasing Israeli and NYC based Boxee streaming media. Boxee came out in 2007 as streaming TV media started to gain traction. Companies like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Vudu and more created apps which could be seen on the Boxee Entertainment System. Even Techpodcasts and Blubrry have channels on the Boxee system.

Boxee had a physical and software presence at the start, debuting on June 16, 2008 – you could download the Boxee software on PC or Mac. Last year, Boxee discontinued that service to focus on their $249 set top box.

Although Boxee has been a distant 4th on set top box marketshare, they did push the game forward in January when they debuted the Boxee Cloud DVR. This is an add-on that connects and turns the Boxee into a DVR.

The Marker first broke this story (Hebrew Website) stating that Samsung will continue to employee Boxee staff – about 40 employees. Boxee was on the market, which AllthingsD reported last month.

Samsung already has software built into smart TVs. Boxee will most likely replace the software and be included in future Samsung mobile devices.

On The Net, Less Can Offer More

For some time now I’ve been using an iOS/Android app called “Heytell” to communicate with a number of friends and relatives. Heytell’s appeal is that it offers reliable asynchronous voice messages that are quick and easy to send to people when you don’t want to invest the time in a phone conversation. Heytell’s success as an app is that it offers something that’s less than a phone call but does it very well indeed.

Text messaging is successful and popular because it offers the opportunity to send quick and easy messages directly to the cell phones of others if you don’t want to invest the time or effort into writing a full-fledged email. Text messaging’s success is that it offers something that’s less than an email but does it very well indeed.

For some time now, I’ve been experimenting with various set-top boxes, including the Western Digital WDTV as well as built-in apps in a couple of different brands of Blu-Ray players, the software version of Boxee, an Apple TV, and even a Mac Mini connected to my HDTV. All of them had their strengths, however, it still felt as if something was somehow wrong or missing from each one of those experiences and user interfaces.

Over the weekend I bought a Roku 2 XS. The Roku is by far the best set-top box experience I’ve ever had. Roku has got it right. They’ve currently got well over 100 apps to chose from, with many more constantly being added. Roku has a tremendous amount of content provided by those third-party apps, and content drives success. Content is king and always will be.

It hit me what the appeal of a box such as Roku is with its third-party apps. These streaming apps, such as Crackle, Netflix, etc. are something less than a full-fledged cable or broadcast TV network. They can have lots of highly-specialized content to choose from, such as Netflix, or such a small amount of highly-specialized content that it’s only updated once a week. Big traditional cable and broadcast networks provide only one program at a time that the viewer has to make an appointment to watch. Roku video streaming apps provide specialized content that in many cases could never make it on a traditional broadcast network because the audience would be too small. That same specialized content begins to have tremendous appeal in a Roku app venue where it’s something less than a full-fledged network environment, yet delivered very well indeed.

On the Internet, less really can be more.

Xbox Boosts On-Demand in the UK

Earlier in the week, Microsoft gave the Xbox a big push in the race for HDMI 1 with Steve Ballmer announcing Xbox TV and partnerships with over 40 content providers. Jeffrey Powers has already covered the main announcement on GNC but I wanted to add a little bit of UK spin.

In the UK, additional programming boxes such as the Roku, Boxee or Apple TV are very rare. Most of my friends would enjoy their gadgets and technology but I don’t know a single one of them who has an extra box. However, many of them would have a games console and there’s a fairly even spread of Xboxes, Playstations and Wiis. Consequently it’s no surprise that the race to provide on-demand content is taking place on the consoles.

Most people in the UK are using the availability of on-line TV to catch up with programmes they missed when they were originally broadcast. What typically happens is that you go into work and some says, “Did you see…..last night? It was brilliant” and you watch the programme through the various free on-line services. The BBC’s iPlayer is very popular.

Reviewing Microsoft’s press release, here are the organisations that will provide on-demand content available in the UK on the Xbox. I’ve ignored the standard social networking sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, but have added the organisation’s background so that non-UK residents can get a feel for what’s happening.

  • BBC – Terrestrial broadcaster
  • Channel 4 – Terrestrial broadcaster
  • Channel 5 – Terrestrial broadcaster
  • BSkyB – Satellite broadcaster (requires monthly subscription)
  • LOVEFiLM – On-line film rental
  • blinkbox – On-line film rental
  • Crackle – Free on-line films
  • Screenrush – Film trailers
  • Muzu.TV – Music videos
  • VEVO – Music videos
In terms of the numbers, the traditional terrestrial and satellite broadcasters have the greatest presence and there’s only one major UK broadcaster missing from the list, ITV, which is a conglomeration of regional broadcast companies.
LOVEFiLM is owned by Amazon, Crackle is a Sony property and blinkbox is 80% owned by Tesco, one of the UK’s leading supermarkets.
The challenge will be to get consumers to pay for the on-line film rentals. Here in the UK, there is lots of good free programming which was originally broadcast but is now on-line through the broadcaster’s portals via tools similar to iPlayer. It will be interesting to see how the paid-for market develops and if the games consoles are key to the transition. It’s certainly where the media companies need to be for the UK market.

SEC College Sports Come to Boxee

Yesterday Boxee announced that SEC Digital Network has launched their college sports app for the Boxee platform.  For those who don’t, SEC is the Southeaster Conference.  They cover all areas of college sports for the member schools.    You can visit their website for more information.  The app features news, specials, highlight, full games, and a lot more.

The feature set, as announced by Boxee, will include:

SEC Today
News and highlights, these daily updates keep you up to date on any major developments from around the conference. SEC Today also offers team previews for all of SEC football.

Specials
Watch classic documentaries focused on SEC Sports, profiles of great SEC players who’ve gone pro, or interviews of current SEC coaches.

Full Games
Rewatch some of the greatest SEC games of the past 20 years. Plus watch many of the best football games from last season. All of the games are totally free to watch, so stop worrying about wearing out those VHS tapes of last season’s football games and stream some of the best games whenever you want.

My Library
Shop the SEC OnDemand streaming VOD store for a library of over 700+ full-length historic and current SEC games. This season’s games are available as soon as midnight the following Saturday. All videos you buy there are automatically accessible on Boxee through the SEC Digital Network app’s My Library section.

According to claims, the app wil include exclusive content that won’t be available anywhere else.  If you own the Boxee Box, or use their software on a PC or Mac, and are a college sports fan, then this will be the best $0 you ever spent.  To find out more about Boxee, you can visit Boxee.tv.

Boxee Opening European Office in London

Following on from the previous post, Boxee have announced that they’re opening a European office in London. In an email to Boxee users, they said that Wil Stephens will be setting up shop to bring more content to the UK audience and will be working with D-Link to get more boxes into more stores. They’ll also be hiring staff so watch their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages if you are interested.

And to celebrate, Boxee is having a meet-up on 7th June in East London at an undisclosed bar. It’s an RSVP affair (and £5 in) but they’ll be showing off some new content partners and giving away some Boxees. And if you can’t make it in person, it’ll be streamed live on the Boxee as well.

Is Premium Content Coming to Boxee?

Any questions about where Boxee may be heading could have been answered with the latest user survey.  The questions surround premium content that it seems they are thinking of making available to users.

What kind of premium content?  The best kind – pay-per-view, sports, and premium channels like HBO.  The gist of the survey surrounds what users are willing to pay for this type of content.  They are even floating the idea of NFL games on PPV – in fact, that’s the one listed in the survey.  In terms of premium channels, HBO and Showtime are names.

So, can they pull off actually adding such content?  HBO and Showtime are a possibility, but the NFL seems much more difficult, especially since they have a deal in place with DirecTV for Sunday Ticket.  It’s not out of the question, just a more difficult negotiation.  I have been waiting for this – a pay-per-view game is long overdue.  There’s seriously no reason for anyone to buy EVERY game of EVERY team in order to watch one team’s games.  It’s much more economical to pay for your game than to pay for DirecTV (plus Sunday Ticket).

Here’s hoping……….

 

OTT: Are We There Yet?

It’s been a while since dumping my $100-dollar-per-month Dish Network habit. Ominously for the existing broadcast/cable/satellite structure, I haven’t missed it – not even one little bit. Sorry guys, that money now goes for other discretionary things.

Save Our Buggy Whips!

I saw an article about the traditional broadcasters in Canada saying they needed to somehow “get ahead” of the Netflix/Hulu phenomenon before the inevitable hits them, before what is happening in the USA happens to them. Like most dinosaur products and services, instead of talking about how they can come up with better ways to serve customers in an ever-changing, innovative marketplace, they are essentially discussing how they can somehow entice or even force customers to maintain the status quo.

A primary reason that market and business conditions change over time is improved, innovative products and services come along that better serve the end consumer. Organizations and individuals that grow fat and lazy consuming cash cow largess naturally start whining when market conditions change and the cow has no more grass left on which to graze because the stagnant field has been stripped bare.

I Want My Set Top Box

I’ve been experimenting with several different TV set top box solutions. I’ve got an Intel Mac Mini set up as a DVR with an HDTV USB tuner stick. I’ve got a couple of Western Digital WD TV Live Plus boxes. I’ve got Playon TV software running on a an HP Windows Home Server box with about 30 different plugins that give me quick organized access to a ton of different on-demand streaming video content, including Hulu and a fair amount of network programming. I’ve got an original Mac Mini running a $50 software hack that includes Boxee and XBMC software. Finally, I’ve got an LG Blu-Ray player that has a number of different on-demand video services built in, including Netflix, Vudu, and a new recently-added service called Divx TV.

So far, none of these solutions is perfect for every viewing situation. My biggest complaint about on-demand video is that it’s virtually impossible to set up a video play list where I can start the video playing and get it to automatically continue to play without any further intervention. This is especially frustrating when I have a bunch of two or three-minute-long video podcasts to watch through and each file has to manually be started playing. Why can’t someone solve this problem? Every past successful form of media has been able to go into a continuous-play mode. Coming up with a solution to this problem of being able to start a group of video files playing and have them play continuously is ultimately critical if OTT is to be widely adopted.

Divx TV Comes Closer

Divx TV, which is currently available only on select LG Blu-Ray players, actually attempts to solve the continuous play problem. It has a channel up/down feature that immediately begins to play streaming podcast content in a window from a number of different content partners. As you go through the categories and drill down into the sub-categories, the video will immediately change to the newest one selected, just like changing a TV channel. The content is categorized in a number of different ways. Revision 3 is one of the content providers. If a Revision 3 podcast is selected, the latest episode will immediately begin to play in the window. At any point in the process, a “swap” button can be pressed to instantly make the video full-screen (or vice versa) without having to restart the video from the beginning. After the latest episode plays, the next-latest episode will play, etc. If left playing, it will eventually go through all available content and start playing the first episode.

Additionally, Divx TV has a search function where it’s possible to save search terms for future use. One of the problems I’ve ran into when using the search function to find videos from their database that aren’t in the packaged categories is file sizes are inconsistent. Since I’m using a point-to-point wireless Internet provider, my home Internet connection isn’t as fast as traditional cable or DSL connections. Larger video file sizes tend not to stream over slower connections so well and buffering can occur. The pre-packaged Divx TV category content providers provide a more consistent video streaming experience on less-robust Internet bandwidth connections and the video looks pretty good.

Eventually all of these problems must be solved.

What would be an ideal system for me? I’d like to be able to play the hundreds of video podcasts I’ve downloaded on every TV in my house and have them play continuously without intervention. I’d like to be able to mix and match custom streaming content, again with minimal intervention on my part. I’d like to be able to play any video I’ve recorded on my Mac Mini DVR on any TV set in my house via my wired home network. So far, none of these solutions I’ve tried can quite combine all of these features into one sleek package. By the way, the Mac Mini DVR can be a bit of a pain in the rear, since the on-screen computer screen text can’t be read from 15 feet away even on a 58” screen.

Are we there yet? Not quite, but the journey has definitely started.

Netflix and Vudu Now on the D-Link Boxee Box

D-Link and Boxee have announced that the Boxee Box will now support Vudu and NetFlix.

This will bring even more choices to the Boxee box and let it’s users have access to the 1000’s of movies and TV shows available on NetFlix via their subscription service. NetFlix subscriptions start at $7.99 for streaming only and $8.99 for 1 DVD by mail at a time in addition to the streaming. Go to NetFlix.com to check out their service.

Vudu brings HD movies, on demand for rental. They have first run movies that are available on the Vudu service the same day the DVD’s are released. Standard rentals are priced at $2 for 2 nights and HD New Releases rent for $4.99. Check out vudu.com for more information.

The D-Link Boxee box can be ordered for around $200 just about everywhere electronics are sold. The Boxee service also includes a plethora of other streaming content from various media creators around the internet (including Tech Podcast Network and Blubrry channels)

The Boxee Box itself features an SD card slot, two USB ports, optical digital audio, HDMI output, 802.11n wireless, and an Ethernet port. It has a double-sided remote featuring a built-in QWERTY keyboard and simple browsing interface, consumers can kick back and watch virtually anything. It also integrates social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, Right from your remote!

For more information on the Boxee service, check them out over at boxee.tv and check out the boxee box by D-Link at dlink.com/boxee

The Success of the D-Link Boxee Box

Andy McCaskey chats to Joe from D-Link about their Boxee Box, which has been selling very well since it launched back in November. Key to the success is the Boxee Box’s ability to play content from a wide variety of sources, whether it’s the Internet, local storage or a USB memory stick.

Andy questions the delay in delivering the product and Joe explains that D-Link moved away from the Atom processor for performance but that necessitated changes to the software. Joe reckons that the success of the platform is because of the wide range of codecs, the flexibility of the platform, the involvement of D-Link with the community and the on-going refreshes to the software.

Andy thinks that part of the success can be due to the great remote which has simple controls on one side and a qwerty keyboard on the other side, making it much easier to enter text. It’s also an RF (radio-frequency) remote, not IR (infra-red) so you don’t need line of site between your remote and the Box.

Production of the Boxee Box is at full capacity to meet the demand in the US and abroad.  It’s on-sale now for $199.

Warning – there’s a TV playing in the background of the video and some of the pictures wouldn’t be entirely safe for children. It is Las Vegas, y’know.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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Iomega TV with Boxee – Media Streamer and NAS

Iomega becomes the second manufacturer to offer a Boxee-based product with their brand new Iomega TV with Boxee. Available in two variants, one as a media streamer device with no storage, the other with up to 2TB of storage built-in. The devices also offer NAS features such as DLNA server, iTunes server and access to your Iomega Personal Cloud.

Available from late February at $229, $299 and $349 price points. You can register to be notified of availability at the link above.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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