Content Home Theater HTPC Opinion

Samsung Acquires Boxee, Kills Cloud DVR Service

SXSW:  Avner Ronan and Mark Cuban Debate; by Steven Rosenbaum, on Flickr
Photo: Steven Rosenbaum

March 2010. Avner Ronan shares his vision of TV’s future—over the Internet—to thousands at SXSW. He sits on stage, across from a pioneer of a different sort, Mark Cuban. It’s an arrogant debate of futures possible. At first, the crowd is clearly with Ronan.

Indeed, Avner Ronan’s Boxee software and set top boxes offer home entertainment consumers flexibility and choices that more traditional means—like cable, satellite, and networks—do not. But Cuban’s a business guy, and his argument is that the money is on cable. Free content over the Internet, he asserts, is a dead business model. Despite the hopes and ideals of the crowd, Cuban arguably wins this debate.

Fast forward to October 2012. By this time, Boxee has scrapped its free, downloadable software product, focusing largely on hardware. With a USB tuner already on the market, they now introduce a new, sleek set-top box with tuner and unlimited recording storage…through the cloud. It’s an ambitious project, and the cloud DVR concept catches the attention of the tech pundits and press as a new era for entertainment storage and access.

Samsung Acquires Boxee, Kills Cloud DVR Service

Today. It’s July 2013, and we learn that Samsung is purchasing Boxee. Interesting news. Samsung’s smart TV experience has been widely panned, so acquiring a third party that specializes in Internet and traditional content aggregation could be the boon they need.

And the possibility of TVs with built-in cloud DVR capabilities…now that could be interesting. Well forget it. The Boxee DVR service is dead. That’s not hyperbole. They’re killing it. With barely a week’s notice, Boxee is shutting down its DVR service. If you were lucky enough to be one of its beta users, after July 10, you will no longer have access to any of the unlimited content that you’ve recorded to watch later.

We don’t really know yet why Boxee’s cloud DVR service is going away. Adoption has been slow, and certainly unlimited cloud storage would be challenging to scale to the size of Samsung’s market.

Boxee’s announcement:

We’re pleased to announce that the Boxee team will be joining Samsung.


We started on this journey six years ago, and have been at the forefront of the changing TV and video landscape. We believe that over the next few years the video market will change even more than it has in the past few decades.


Joining Samsung means we will be able to work on products that marry the best hardware and software in the TV space, products that will be used by tens of millions of people and will help to shape the future of TV.


We are excited about the next chapter for our team.


For Boxee users, we’re working behind the scenes to ensure there’s minimal impact to your devices. However, the beta Cloud DVR functionality we provided to certain Boxee TV users will be discontinued on July 10th. You will not have access to your existing recordings after that date. We realize many of you loved the service, and we’re sorry it won’t be available moving forward.


We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve built, and we want to thank you for being a part of our journey.


Team Boxee

Perhaps more importantly, this is (another) good lesson about depending on cloud services. The tech community is so eager to push everything to the cloud. You may remember that To the Cloud was even one of Microsoft’s dreadful ad campaigns for its oft-rebranded Windows Live. But the cloud gives you less control over where, how, and when you can access your content than most companies would have you believe.

Online and cloud services come and go. Numerous photo sharing sites have shut down over the years. Even over the past weeks, we’ve lost several online services that people have come to depend on. Google just killed its RSS reader service and is screwing customers left and right by shoehorning chat users into Google+ Hangouts. Now we can add Boxee’s cloud DVR service to the list.

In what ways do you depend on the cloud? Do you have your cloud content available locally? Lets us know in the comments where you stand on all of this.


About the author

Richard Gunther

Richard is a product experience consultant with a life-long interest in consumer electronics. He has been immersed in smart home tech for decades now and hosts The DMZ's home automation podcast, Home: On and co-hosts Entertainment 2.0 with Josh Pollard. Richard looks at products through an experience lens, always seeking the right mix of utility and delight.