Diary Of My Switch To Internet TV – Part 9 – Boxee Box Got Content; Another Live TV Streamer

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Tim Higgins

Unfortunately, the Boxee Box plays even less content than the free software version does. Read the review.

Well, Ms. SmallNetBuilder’s time with the Logitech Revue that we looked at last time was pretty short. After a 15 minute demo that resulted in no viewable content for any search, she dismissed the box with this question: "Why would I want to search for something that I can’t watch?" Why indeed.

That basically sums up my whole previous article and I couldn’t have said it better. So I called Logitech yesterday and got an RMA for the Revue. They don’t make it easy, by the way.

I pre-ordered mine direct from Logitech, so had a 30 day return period. But there isn’t a simple online way to arrange an RMA and the Logitech Store. The How do I request a refund FAQ directs you to contact "Customer Service". But the general Contact US page you’re sent to doesn’t have a listing for "Customer Service". I first tried Support, but was politely given the 1-800-231-7717 number that appears to handle all things Sales-related.

But the robo-attendant doesn’t offer a menu option for arranging an RMA. I finally chose Option 2 (Order Inquiries and Status) and got to where I needed to be.

All eyes now turn to the last shoe to drop in this year’s contest for top box for cable cutters—The Boxee Box by D-Link. I’m sure Walt, Pogue, Engadget, et al have theirs by now, so that their reviews can drop on ship day, tomorrow.

All I have so far is an email from Team Boxee by D-Link, confirming my shipping details and a link D-Link’s spiffy Boxee Box microsite. We’ll see which one arrives first, D-Link’s or the one I pre-ordered from Amazon.

Boxee Box by D-Link Microsite

Boxee Box by D-Link Microsite

But as D-Link’s microsite surprisingly points out, you don’t have to wait for the Box to ship to experience Boxee. I first downloaded it onto an Acer Asipire Revo 1600 back in March and gave it a thorough going over. I have since moved it to a more powerful Acer Revo 3610 running Win 7, which has provided somewhat better video quality. But it’s hard to tell where image quality is being quashed with Internet video, since there are so many variables involved.

I decided to run a quick experiment to see if those of us anxiously awaiting the arrival of our little lopsided bundles of Internet TV joy were going to run into the same buzzkill that Google TV delivered (at least for me). So I downloaded the latest Windows release onto the Revo 3610 and see what I could see (or not).

What I found was, frankly, shocking. Most of what I tried to watch, I actually could! I stayed mostly within Boxee’s TV Show Library, i.e. no apps like Clicker, and tried almost a dozen shows or so from different providers. I was able to watch the following, with plenty of commercials, of course:

  • SpongeBob SquarePants (Nickelodeon)
  • The Apprentice (Fancast)
  • 30 Rock (Fancast, Hulu)
  • Newhart (Hulu)
  • Project Runway (MyLifeTime)
  • Hawaii 5-O (CBS)
  • The Simpsons (Fox)
  • Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • The Good Guys (Fancast, Fox, Hulu)
  • Castle (Hulu)

The good news is that this was ten more shows than the zero that I was able to watch via Google TV. Video quality varied from source to source, but everything was watchable. Available content varied, too, with only one Hawaii 5-O episode available and the single $#*! My Dad Says episode listed from CBS, unavailable when I tried to play it.

Some of the players were a bit obnoxious, though. Fancast used a letterboxed format that left a lot of screen unused.

Fancast letterboxing example

Fancast letterboxing example

And Fox’s player kept controls visible and had the longest commercials (60 seconds).

Intrusive player on Fox

Intrusive player on Fox

But for this admittedly small sample of shows, I didn’t run into any blocking. None!

Given Boxee’s previous battles with Hulu, and the No way, Jose! stance that content owners have taken with Google, this strikes me as odd. The cynic in me thinks this is a temporary ploy to give an even bigger middle finger to Google. But if it helps us move the ball forward a bit more toward better Internet TV, so be it.

Unless there is some money changing hands (or about to) somewhere, Boxee’s content advantage may be only temporary. Maybe they’re planning to use some of the $10 to $15M they’re trying to raise to buy better access to content?

In the meantime, though, it appears that those little Boxee Boxes by D-Link will have something to play when they start getting plugged in later this week.

On another front, I had to give into my usual urge to resist such an obvious traffic ploy as How to Watch Free, Live Broadcast TV on Your iPad, Right Now. But it looks like the FilmOn site is for reals. As some of the comments in Peter Kafka’s article reported, the site did crash my entry-level 8 GB iPad right to a full reboot. But the Windows app ran fine on an old XP notebook that I loaded it onto for my father-in-law to experiment with and it ran fine on my Gen 4 iPod Touch, too.

The live streams all come out of L.A. right now and include NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, CW, BBC News, Universal Sports, MyTV, CNN International and a even a few porn stations (English and Spanish)! And the quality is actually quite good.

So if you like the background drone of broadcast TV, but can’t get an OTA signal where you are, you should give FimOn a try. Of course, if you’d rather pay $5 a month and get your streams from the Seattle area, there’s ivi.tv. Don’t be surprised if these sites suddenly disappear, however, since both are being sued by the networks.

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