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The Big Drawback of Boxee TV Cloud-Based DVR

Boxee TV offers unlimited cloud-based storage for recorded shows, but no local storage, so users must play monthly fees -- which are bound to increase -- for as long as they want access. What if Boxee goes out of business?

Boxee TV is a great option for unlimited DVR storage ... as long as you don’t mind paying monthly fees for eternity.

Boxee’s new Boxee TV could be a game changer with its $99 price point, dual HDTV tuners, input for antenna or basic cable service, electronic programming guide (EPG), pre-loaded apps and – the kicker – a DVR that records TV content automatically to the cloud for access from virtually any Web browser.

The service costs $14.99, and it is truly unlimited. Conceivably, you could record two channels simultaneously all day every day.

It definitely has the potential to triumph in cord-cutting circles, but there’s one big drawback: You cannot record content to local storage devices, be it USB- or network-attached, despite the unit boasting two USB ports and obviously an Ethernet port.

“We felt that it would be a confusing experience to have some content in the cloud and some locally (and therefore not available to stream from any device),” a Boxee spokesperson tells CE Pro, “and the cloud allows us to provide the unique offers of this product -- namely unlimited storage and access on all your devices.”

Of course this explanation is “total BS,” as networking and A/V specialist Bjorn Jensen of WhyReboot tells me (see his earlier piece on Boxee TV).

Technically, it would be simple to enable local storage for recorded content, but it wouldn’t fit Boxee’s business model. The service subsidizes the hardware, which is almost half the price of the original Boxee Box ($180).

Here’s the problem: If you want to watch your recorded TV content, you will have to pay $14.99 every month for as long as you want access to potentially hundreds or thousands of shows.

At that point, you are stuck with Boxee, even if they raise the rates to $19.99 per month or $29.99 per month …. You then become as much a hostage to Boxee as you would be to the cable or satellite providers whose cord you want to cut in the first place.

In fact, I suspect Boxee is offering unlimited storage to make users especially beholden to them. The more content you have, the less likely you are to drop the service.

Also, what if Boxee goes out of business? Again, you’ll be out of luck, as we have seen with HDGiants and even Walmart at one time.

RELATED: Perils of DRM: What Happens to Your Digital Content if the Provider Goes out of Business?

Also, what if Boxee TV for some reason doesn’t pass muster with the DRM police, the paranoid folks in the cable industry, or even the FCC? It wouldn’t be the first time Boxee technology faced cord-cutting foes.

I like the idea of cloud-based DVR storage – especially of the unlimited variety -- with access from virtually any place at any time.

I don’t, however, want to be beholden to Boxee for eternity, especially if they increase the monthly service fees, which is bound to happen at some point.

Meanwhile, Boxee is limiting support for shared local content on the home network in this next product iteration compared to the original box.

A spokesperson tells CE Pro, “Boxee TV will still have good local file playback, it just is not a key feature of the product and will not be as exhaustive as the Boxee Box's local file support.”

I’m certainly not begrudging Boxee their business model. I just don’t know if it’s right for me.

It’s a deal-breaker for Jensen, who enjoys Windows Media Center paired with a good antenna and a HDHomerun dual tuner from Silicon Dust, with plenty of local storage and no monthly fees for DVR service, and few repercussions if his hardware/software providers go out of business.

Boxee’s approach, he says, “is just a way to steer people into buying the cloud service and for that reason I probably won’t purchase it.”

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Article Topics

Blogs · Video · Digital Media · Media Servers · Media Center · Boxee · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

9 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Bjørn Jensen  on  10/16  at  05:11 PM

Did I say BS?  I meant to say #@$!&$^@.

Posted by Peter  on  10/17  at  07:43 AM

Just wait for the xbmc implementation of this DVR solution. Open platform so you can choose where to store

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  10/17  at  01:58 PM

For real, Peter? Also, maybe the product could be hacked for local storage?

Posted by Finn Petersen  on  10/17  at  02:14 PM

The BIG drawback *I* see? Around here, most broadband connections have around 1 Mbps up - that’s going to take some serious compression putting TWO HD recordings on the cloud.

If I have to upgrade my ISP connection and pay a fee to Boxee, what was the point of cutting the cord in the first place?

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  10/17  at  02:20 PM

The Boxee TV footnote says, “Boxee recommends minimum bandwidth of 3 Mbps download / 1 Mbps upload speeds for proper functionality.”

I do wonder about the quality of the recorded content.

Posted by Bjørn Jensen  on  10/17  at  02:28 PM

I think it can and almost certainly will be hacked.  Probably by the folks over at as well.  The uploading thing would most likely be an issue if you’re recording tons of stuff with a slow upload speed.  If they were smart they’d just copy their own master copy to people’s personal “cloud” so the “upload” would be fake/virtual.  Of course then they’d have to deal with the problem that everybody’s commercials are different depending on their location.  Just another reason to ditch commercials!!!

Posted by Finn Petersen  on  10/17  at  02:30 PM

I’m not happy with my current MSO’s compression, especially compared to broadcast. Even “HD Video” from Netflix looks better, but they recommend a minimum of 5-6 Mbps. 1U/3D ain’t gonna cut it, in my book! I’ll go Bjørn’s route: I need less subscriptions in my life, not more!

Posted by Rob  on  10/20  at  06:02 AM

I’ve followed Boxee from their beginning and hoped they would succeed. Ignoring the rarely satisfactory possibility of third party hacks and the problems associated with insufficiently buffered streaming, their cloud only storage approach is a dead end street for anyone who wants control over their own content and could will end up killing the company.

Posted by Mark Donnigan  on  10/22  at  11:56 PM

The issue with Boxee TV is that it is now based on a Broadcom SOC and not an Intel ARM processor, which means I highly doubt it has the capability to run XBMC.

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