Boxee TV is dead, rebranded as Boxee Cloud DVR

boxee-tv-xlIt’s not quite a makeover, but Boxee has backpedaled a bit on the “cutting the cord” rhetoric and rebranded its Boxee TV set top box, now calling it the Boxee Cloud DVR, with a free service tier thrown in to ease the transition.

The move comes only five months after the device first came to market, and prominently featured the words “Free TV” on its packaging. It was a not-so-veiled marketing strategy to help consumers cut their dependency on cable or satellite subscriptions, but this reversal may have something to do with Boxee’s desire to couple network broadcast content with encrypted cable content from providers like Comcast.

The Boxee Cloud DVR now offers users unlimited storage for TV recordings in the cloud under two distinct servicing options. The free option limits DVR playback to five hours per month and removes recordings after 90 days. Playback is also only for the TV the box is connected to. The “All-Access” option is $10 per month, where recordings don’t expire, playback is unlimited and content can be viewed on the TV or streamed to smartphones and tablets anywhere there is an Internet connection. All-Access is still in beta, however, so it’s free while testing continues.

The unlimited storage and streaming freedom now appear as the key selling points to the device, rather than the prior focus on free over-the-air channels via a digital antenna. Boxee’s blog makes no mention of the change (so far), but some of the feedback from the company in other interviews suggests that Boxee wanted consumers to view the $100 device as not just another media player along the lines of the Apple TV or Roku. Instead, the comparison now is geared towards TiVo and cable DVRs with the unlimited storage acting as the kicker.

Those interested in the device will have to be patient, as it’s currently only available in eight markets across the U.S. Boxee plans to expand this to 26 by the end of the year, but no timetable has been released to pinpoint when and where.

This also comes less than two weeks after Boxee announced that the box would support DLNA and 3D playback, the former of which was meant to play nice with DLNA-enabled mobile devices.

It also comes only a week after Aereo won a potentially landmark court battle with broadcasters over how it delivers live TV to mobile devices in the cloud.

However it might seem, Boxee’s about-face and marketing shift is probably just business. Media players and over-the-top (OTT) devices are getting better, so it’s possible the company wants to position itself in the longer run as a content provider with more flexibility and partnerships than competitors.

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