In what’s shaping up to be a fall battle of over-the-air DVRs, highly touted Simple.TV has started shipping while Boxee pivots away from local content aggregation into broadcast television archival. Yet, Simple.TV is anything but… by incorporating just a single OTA tuner and requiring owners supply their own USB storage, this remains the provence of geeks. Simple.TV hardware runs $149, but to fully unlock its recording and placeshifting capabilities (to devices like Roku and iPad) will require an annual $50-$60 subscription fee. Potentially more interesting is Boxee TV, which clocks in at a mere $99 for hardware… but similarly requires a subscription for full-on DVR and placeshifting functionality at $15/month in this case. While that may seem steep at first blush, the dual tuner Boxee TV is positioning itself as a cloud DVR and the fee includes unlimited online storage. Bonus: With or without that subscription, Boxee TV incorporates Apple TV-esque features like Netflix and YouTube apps while remaining on Input 1.
Questions about both devices remain. For example, what sort of quality and encoding are we talking about in terms of resolution and audio channels. Also, while Boxee positions itself as a potential cord cutting device, it’s often the cable “television” companies providing our Internet pipe… and associated bandwidth cap, which might limit the usefulness of a cloud-based DVR. Lastly, both Simple.TV and Boxee TV tout the ability to record unencrypted digital cable (aka clear QAM). Well, good luck with that now that the FCC has granted cable operators to right to encrypt basic cable.
And then there’s TiVo, the original DVR (perhaps), which also provides OTA recording capabilities along a handful of Internet apps like Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video. By comparison, TiVo Premiere hardware runs $150 and requires $15/month in fees. While storage is local, 500GB is included – which equates to 75 hours of HD recording. And one would assume recording quality would best anything transcoded and streamed to/from the cloud as Boxee intends. Unfortunately, TiVo doesn’t natively provide placeshifting capabilities as Simple.TV and Boxee TV do. Yet, for $129, subscribers can pick up the TiVo Stream — it’s pretty killer, but limited to in-home playback on iOS devices. Whereas one could presumably catch a Simple.TV or Boxee TV recording anywhere in the world they happen to be.