The Boxee team has announced that it is joining Samsung, shuttering some existing services. Boxee TV users who were using the company's beta Cloud DVR service will see it shut down on July 10. Boxee added that it was working with Samsung to ensure minmal impact to customers who had already purchased Boxee Boxes.
"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," the team said in the post that replaced the majority of its website. The post was also emailed to Boxee users on Saturday.
Boxee first appeared six years ago as a fork of the XBMC media player platform. In mid-2008, the alpha became available on the Mac, then on Windows and Linux. Among the first things people did with the player was to throw it on jailbroken Apple TVs.
By mid-2009, Boxee secured an additional round of funding and started to expand into hardware, with plans for the first retail Boxee Boxes announced in late 2009. That was also the summer where Boxee and Hulu played a well-publicized game of cat and mouse, with Hulu taking every step possible to block Boxee, and the service fighting back in the form of browser hacks.
In 2011, Boxee released its iPad app, complete with an experimental reverse engineering of the AirPlay protocol. But months later, it suddenly dropped support for the desktop version of the software that brought its initial fame. It released an end-of-life version of the desktop client for OS X, Windows, and Linux at the end of 2011, with the intention of focusing on the Boxee Box and iOS apps. At CES 2012, Boxee explained that the number of desktop users wasn't worth maintaining the client, and the company wanted to focus on live TV broadcasts.
But, as XMBC's Nathan Betzen pointed out, Boxee managed to tick off loyal users again, dropping all support for its original Boxee Box by the end of 2012.
Over the past few years, Samsung has integrated a Smart Hub into its Smart TV brand that is pretty slick-looking, but shares a characteristic with most other so-called smart TV interfaces -- it is ridiculously hard to use. When we got our new Samsung TV, my husband and I played with the Smart TV feature in-store and declared it absolute rubbish compared to what we already have (an Apple TV, a Roku, and a PS3).
Ease of use is the entire point behind the long-rumored Apple television (not the set-top box, but the real deal). With Samsung acquiring Boxee and its experience creating a user-friendly interface for media browsing, it's looking to be the company to have the "a-ha" moment and develop this before Apple (or Amazon or Google) get there first. After all, Steve Jobs proclaimed before his death that he had "finally cracked" the code of reinventing television.