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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.

The Boxee Box never worked right for most users. A quick search through its support forums, its Facebook page, or @Boxee mentions on Twitter show a legion of dissatisfied users who, like me, tried in vain to get an uncommunicative company to address -- let alone fix -- the problems we've continued to have with this bug-ridden device. (A device that Boxee has since unceremoniously abandoned, leaving its most loyal users in the lurch before debuting a new and equally buggy set-top box. How's that for customer appreciation?)

Users were forced to keep outdated firmware loaded on their machines -- because every infrequent update from Boxee would break something else -- and find their own workarounds to get things running for more than a day. (A flashback to the "if you want it to work, you have to hack it" days of Apple TV.)

Between constant crashes, a severe memory leak, broken Flash support, an unusable Web browser, non-working apps, and an underpowered processor that could barely even start a 1040p stream let alone play it in its entirety, the Boxee Box is by far the biggest regretful purchase I've ever made.

And that's coming from someone who owned a Droid Bionic.

But the Apple TV and Boxee Box aren't the only disappointing entries into the media center arena. Google TV has all but been considered a flop since it was introduced in 2010. Yet again, touted as the vehicle that will redefine the way we watch television, Google TV hit one snag after another -- a poor UI, questionable manufacturing partners, uncooperative studios, low developer support -- before it seemed to be a shambling corpse still fighting for relevance. A future upgrade to Jelly Bean may inject some life into it, but its fate looks to be already sealed.

That isn't to say it's all the fault of the manufacturer. The aforementioned "uncooperative studios" play a major role in denying the public a TV-watching revolution. The NBCs (NASDAQ:CMCSA), the ABCs (NYSE:DIS), the Foxes (NASDAQ:NWS), and the CBSs (NYSE:CBS) all prefer the staid and antiquated broadcast model and, like the publishing industry, will eventually go down with the ship as the average user begins to prefer a cut cord to a $100+ monthly bill.

After all, you've seen the way they've run Hulu into the ground.

However, even in 2013 when Netflix and Wi-Fi abound (mostly), these studios and cable companies are still kicking around due to their massive control and power over the media. Despite an abundance of streaming and often free entertainment options, they still hold all the cards when it comes to passive television watching for the average viewer.

And, most importantly, they are absolutely essential for the success of any of these media centers. Want live TV interactivity? You better have a cable subscription and a licensed cable box -- the kind with the extra monthly charge to operate. If not, well, they'll see you in court -- a costly hiccup that the over-the-air television outfit Aereo knows all too well. (We still have to wait and see if its court win does anything for its success and adoption.)

So, what are we left with? Like I said before, glorified Netflix streamers. Even now, to get most of the options we all want and have them work consistently, well, your best option is building your own home theater PC, slapping a copy of XBMC on it, and sitting back with a Bluetooth keyboard remote.

In other words, another hack.

See also:

Forget Apple TV or iWatch: Apple's Next Trump Card Is Mobile Payments

Google Looks Ahead to Its Next Billion Customers

Xbox One and PS4: New Consoles Are Nice, but New Gamers Would Be Even Better
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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