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Why I've Given Up Hope for Apple, Google, Microsoft to Deliver Better TV


Unveiled last week, the Xbox One was dubbed "the ultimate all-in-one entertainment system." But we've heard that before.

Last week, all eyes turned to Redmond as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) unveiled its upcoming eighth-generation console, the Xbox One. Although full game demos were conspicuously missing, Microsoft paid a great deal of attention to one of the features that has made the Xbox 360 such a hit with users: its media center capabilities.

The Xbox One touts live TV features like a voice search for programs, a Web browser than can snap to the side while watching broadcast television, and the ability to automatically update your fantasy football league any time a member of your team scores a touchdown. In fact, speaking of voice search, Microsoft has basically injected Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Now commands into the Xbox One's means of interactivity. While it might not be as in-depth and interpretive of "fuzzy language," being able to say "Xbox, watch TV" and have it switch to a live broadcast of Breaking Bad is pretty cool.

The only problem with this "ultimate all-in-one entertainment system," as Microsoft called it: We've heard that before, and we've been let down. Time and time again.

Sure, there's always a chance that the Xbox One will revolutionize the way we watch TV and lead the way in developing an all-too-important standard in which all other media centers can follow, but there've been seemingly hundreds of these types of devices since WebTV came on the scene, and their success is measured in how well they can stream Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX).

Take, for example, the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) TV.

I bought a first-generation Apple TV years ago in the hopes that it could deliver the on-demand, fully interactive television that I dreamed about when I was a TV junkie youth. The idea of scrolling through unlimited programs with a remote and having a program or film play automatically whenever I wanted was such a fantastical vision.

And in terms of a high-quality, non-stuttering program or film, it still is.

Admittedly, the Apple TV has always been dubbed a "hobby" by Cupertino, and man, did it show. The underpowered, overpriced device could barely deliver 720p entertainment and crashed so often that I wondered if that "hobby" was like someone saying their pastime was wind-surfing when they've only gone twice.

The Apple TV was sold already stunted: Its USB port in the back couldn't be used without jailbreaking the device. In other words, you actually had to hack the Apple TV so it could function like a normal media player and access local files. I purchased the device on the condition that I could hack it -- which a number of sites said was a breeze -- and use it in that matter.

Well, hack or not, the first-generation Apple TV was a terrible, glitchy product. One of the worst I ever bought.

But then I bought the Boxee Box, which redefined the meaning of "worst."

Touted as an open source device that, again, would be the ultimate all-in-one set-top box, the Boxee Box was introduced with the very popular Boxee software built in. It had two USB ports which you didn't have to hack in order to use, 1040p video capabilities, hundreds of streaming apps, a Web browser with Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) Flash support, and a remote with a QWERTY keyboard on the back.

The thing was, most -- if not all -- of those features were continually broken throughout the lifespan of this device.
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