I call them second generation. The first gen TV devices were the current “7th generation” consoles – the PS3, the Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii – they had web browsers, voice chat, and most importantly, streaming Netflix capability. They were sort of the testbed to prove that people were interested in watching streaming full length movies. Watching “the girls” at an affluent party browsing through netflix movies on the husband’s PS3 this last january (’10) was the real turning point when I realized that netflix had officially gone mainstream and there was no turning back.
Anyways, the second generation of devices has arrived. Somewhere inbetween, perhaps generation 1.5, bluray players and a variety of set top boxes have hit the scene boasting pandora capability and netflix compatibility, and is even built in to some TVs by default.
The second generation devices, or at least the first wave of them, is the new $99 apple TV and the $200 boxee box, which are simply streaming web players and no local storage capability. The (new, 2010) Apple TV is both really neat and underwhelming at the same time. Neat: $99, plays netflix, integrates with your itunes library. Underwhelming: doesn’t support divx, stream dvd/bluray from your computer, and maxes out at 720p. 720p is the real deal breaker here; this is 2010, and 720p displays aren’t really that popular, and nobody wants to playback 720p video on a tv they paid extra for to watch 1080p video on. Boxee Box on the other hand, supports full 1080p video, Hulu and a host of other online streaming video formats. It’s relatively futureproof, as we aren’t going to go beyond 1080p for quite some time, at least not in the broad consumer arena.
I find it interesting that the Boxee Box was pushed back almost 10 months for a complete revamp of the hardware. I think they realized how outdated their hardware was in January, and did a complete redesign with modern intel hardware. At the rate that Atom-based consumer products is being cranked out (just look at how the netbook and now ipad clone markets have exploded), it’s tempting to sit on our hands and watch the first generation Boxee products go by, and snatch up the second generation products when they arrive in the market in summer of 2011.
In the mean time however, Boxee beta is free, and I plan to install it on my new media PC/file server/retired old main PC.