Should Microsoft Just Buy Boxee And Compete With Google TV?

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News Posted: Tue, May 25 2010 1:03 AM
Did Google miss a critical opportunity? Some might say they did. Googlehas obviously capitalized on quite a number of market openings, pavingthe way for true smartphone competition with Android, putting Yahoo! andMSN on their toes with Google search, and putting Yahoo! Mail as wellas Hotmail on guard with Gmail. And that's just the beginning. Google isalso doing their best to bring cloud applications into the mainstream,with the Google Document suite putting serious pressure on Microsoft'sOffice suite.

But no one needs to tell you that Google is on top of their game. Googleis even looking to revolutionize the television industry and contentdelivery business with Google TV.  In fact, some might say that they havetheir toughest climb yet with that one. They're battling against pay-TVproviders (think of it as a cold war), as those who provide content overfiber and/or coax certainly don't want all of your content to simplystream in via the Internet. It still remains to be seen if Google istrying to start a new revenue stream or simply take advantage of the upside adsales potential on TV as a medium, but one thing struck us right away when thecompany began to detail the Google TV platform. WithGoogle recently snapping up AdMob and a number of other small companies,it's clear that the company isn't scared of spending money. So it hadto cross their mind that Boxee is ripe for acquisition.  And given thatjust about everyone in the market that would be interested in Google TVis also well aware of the successes of Boxee.tv, it would've also given Google some positivepress despite some of the confusion of what they're really aiming for withGoogle TV.


As it stands, Google instead chose to partner with Intel, Sony, DISHNetwork and Logitech, all fine companies. But they lack something thatBoxee has: freshness and innovation with a new face on mainstream content. Boxee's delivery methodis second-to-none, and anyone viewing content heavily via a PC isprobably using Boxee or has Boxee installed in order to quickly andeasily access their favorite Web-based material. So why would Googleleave a main competitor on the table, when this was seemingly theperfect opportunity to integrate Boxee's services in with Google TV?

Not like it matters now. Google's going at this with their own selectionof partners, and there's likely no changing course. So, with Boxeestill out on the market, there's an 800lb gorilla in the room that wecan't ignore. It's Microsoft, and since Google passed up what seems likea great chance to really forge ahead with a service that integrates thebest of Boxee with the best of Google, we're wondering if Microsoft isseeing what we're seeing. Google and Microsoft already compete in anumber of areas: search, ads, smartphone operating systems, desktopoperating systems, web browsers, and the list goes on. Why not add onemore? Microsoft has been active in the alternative television space foryears now, most recently with Windows Media Center, Media Center Extenders, their Internet TV offering in Windows Media Center and CableCARD support. Most HTPCs that don't rely onLinux/Myth, rely on Microsoft products, but the company has been unable to reallyexploit this market. High-end installs may rely on Windows Media Center,but average consumers can easily be daunted by the complexity of setup. And with all of those DRM loops holding things up further, it's easyto see why the standard pay-TV approach, as old as it is, still remainsso very popular globally.

But alas, let us not forget about that huge install-base of Xbox Live users, who could easily and immediately benefit from a Boxee-infused content delivery system by Microsoft and tailored specifically for their own game console...


Microsoft still has a great deal of expertise in this space, and theyhave a long list of industry partners that would probably jump atthe chance to rival Google and become "the next big thing" in TVdelivery. Imagine a Microsoft-based middleware service in place ofwhatever is currently on your cable set-top box. So instead of usingsome slow, inflexible OS to attempt to record shows and manage DVRspace, you'd have a sleek, 1080p Microsoft interface, one's that able toeasily integrate with networked PCs and networked storage. You couldeasily pull together content stored locally, on a network, from yourpay-TV provider, and from the Web.

And better still, there's Xbox Live and Netflix integration, two more critical items that Microsoft already has under their belt. Now, Google could easily integrate a Netflix search into their own offering since it's an open API that has also been adopted by Roku, Nintendo and Sony, but still, Microsoft has proven that it has an interface that works and people are willing to pay for. On top of that, there's Microsoft's own Xbox Video Store, yet another place where users can search for content to download. Obviously this gets a bit complex with all of these different venues to fetch media, but having Boxee as a central UI would allow those various portals to be assembled in a central, easy-to-navigate location. Of course, all of this brings up another point: Microsoft doesn't even need a set-top box vendor. They already have a perfect usable device in the Xbox 360, which retails for under $200 today. Most Media Center Extenders were around $200 at launch, so the value proposition of getting a unified pay-TV/programming set-top box and a game console for $200 is excellent. Google can't offer that, but neither can Microsoft without Boxee (or something similar).


Sounds like a plan, doesn't it? But Microsoft needs help with that lastaspect, and Boxee could make Microsoft a contender today. Hardly anywait would be needed; a Boxee for Windows build is available now, as arebuilds for OS X and Linux. A Boxee buyout by Microsoft would allow thecompany to immediately integrate a best-in-class Web content deliveryservice with a best-in-class media center service, and the Boxee namealone would allow Microsoft to rival Google TV in a way that they couldnever do alone. D-Link's Boxee box could even be updated to do whatLogitech's Google TV set-top box will do this Fall, and all of theconnected HDTVs in the pipeline from Toshiba, Vizio, Sharp, LG andothers could easily be tweaked to run a Microsoft/Boxee app that couldpull down content from the Web, from your networked storage servers,from your pay-TV provider, etc.


Microsoft is in a tough position if they were to try to rival Google TVtoday. Google TV will be available in a few short months, and thatleaves Microsoft with little to no time to develop a softwarealternative, rally partners and implement a solution to the market.Acquiring Boxee would accelerate the plan in a way that Microsoft may beable to have something similar out by Q4.  The most crucial aspectis that only DISH Network (of all the pay-TV carriers in America) hassigned on with Google. That leaves TWC, Comcast, Cox, DirecTV, and abunch of others ripe for the picking. It's pretty much now or never forMicrosoft, and it looks like an acquisition of Boxee would be thequickest way to get on that track. We aren't certain this situation willever play out, but could anyone argue that the whole situation ofnext-generation TV would be amped up a few levels in terms ofexcitement if indeed it went down?
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AKwyn replied on Wed, May 26 2010 2:19 AM

If they do aquire Boxee. What they could do is integrate it into Media Center or discontinue Media Center and just offer Boxee as the new Media Center on all new Windows PC's. I just don't see it happening though.

 

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Interesting idea.. the single biggest problem is getting consumers to use it. The best way to do this is to get TV manufacturers to integrate it into their TVs. I agree with Google that if you require consumers to switch inputs, you've lots a bulk of your audience. It needs to be a single integrated experience with your TV or DVR.

The best thing is that we're having this conversation about how best to create the connected television experience. Sooner or later someone is going to get it right which means consumers will be the winners. The question is, how long do we have to wait.

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I can see why, no body has heard about Boxee (which reminds me too much of an internet meme). Who knows though, I'm not really a market fortune teller and I don't know anyone who has information on the inside.

Still, these decisions all point us towards one direction. As long as the consumers can consume good material I don't think it matters. Now I'm sure if I was in charge are acquiring market space for Google i'd have a different opinion.

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If Microsoft takes away my Boxee under Ubuntu I would be really upset.

I honestly don't understand why they would need to buy them. Media Center could be awesome if they add the online component and do something with it. Been pretty much the same for years now.

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3vi1 replied on Wed, May 26 2010 7:25 AM

Answer: No.

Why would MS even want Boxee? Does Boxee own some patent that would prevent MS from just adding the missing functionality to WMC? Are they doing something radically hard that MS programmers could never figure out?

The Boxee Box is a Linux appliance, and the app also fully supports OS X. This doesn't fit with Microsoft's strategy at all. The only purpose I could see for MS to buy Boxee would be to shut down cross-platform development and thereby destroy competition on non-MS platforms. This would also leave all the customers who are soon to buy the Boxee Box abandoned, with no update path.

Any resulting "Boxee" labeled product left on the Windows platform would likely be a DRM encumbered, for-pay version of what we already have today for free.

This would all be very very bad for the consumer.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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realneil replied on Wed, May 26 2010 8:30 AM

Steve jobs just wrote a check this morning for Boxee. You'll need the very best, top of the line iPad or a 27" iMac to use it from now on.

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whitehatt replied on Wed, May 26 2010 10:27 AM

This will not happen for the very simple reason that the GoogleTV software is free. They will be providing the cable and satellite providers for paid distribution. None of those companies are going to host multiple systems. Googles end game is expanded search, and a new applications marketplace. MS has no place to compete at. While were on the subject, why would they want to. Why does every tech company have to chase the others down with competition. A couple options is more than enough, rt now there are 16 companies building Internet TV.

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3vi1 replied on Wed, May 26 2010 2:16 PM

>> Steve jobs just...

Hehe - On second thought, let Ballmer and Jobs get into a bidding war over Boxee. We already have the source, (http://dl.boxee.tv/boxee-0.9.21.11497-sources.tar.bz2)... and we can just go and add the stuff we like back to XBMC.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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3vi1:

>> Steve jobs just...

Hehe - On second thought, let Ballmer and Jobs get into a bidding war over Boxee. We already have the source, (http://dl.boxee.tv/boxee-0.9.21.11497-sources.tar.bz2)... and we can just go and add the stuff we like back to XBMC.

lol. So is boxee really getting snagged up? Seems odd to me. It looked like they are really making moves and growing.

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AKwyn replied on Thu, May 27 2010 12:10 AM

bob_on_the_cob:

3vi1:

>> Steve jobs just...

Hehe - On second thought, let Ballmer and Jobs get into a bidding war over Boxee. We already have the source, (http://dl.boxee.tv/boxee-0.9.21.11497-sources.tar.bz2)... and we can just go and add the stuff we like back to XBMC.

lol. So is boxee really getting snagged up? Seems odd to me. It looked like they are really making moves and growing.

I don't think boxee is getting snagged up anytime soon. But if it does, it better be somebody unexpected. I can't imagine what Microsoft or any other major software company (except Roxio) could do with boxee.

 

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3vi1 replied on Thu, May 27 2010 8:24 AM

Agreed.

When it comes down to it, MS wouldn't touch Boxee with a 10-ft pole because they know that they'd constantly have free software advocates looking over their shoulder to make sure they're working in accordance with the GPL.  In this case, if they change any of the open code that came from XBMC, they would have to release the source for the changes.  They've been caught violating the GPL before, and had to backtrack and apologize.

It's just way easier for them to re-implement the features in WMC.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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Boxee....NOOOOOO!!!!!

Wait? What the hell is boxee!!

Yeah like who cares! When it comes down to it, it is all going to be about property rights. It will be just as easy to garner all the rights to content, and probably cheaper over time and demand, to do it themselves.

Microsoft can take that money only use about half of it to integrate a similar system into Windows and port it through a service like XBox live.

This would be a complete waste of money. Yet if we could stop these large corporations that we have supported since the seventies, from doing stupid outsourcing and takovers! Then we would have "The Clone Wars" be produced in America with good jobs that would help the California economy! Instead The market that pays for it, just gives all that economic support to Singapore with no return!

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