Boxee new direction

Wal-Mart to Sell Boxee TVs Challenging Apple and Roku:

Starting tomorrow, the world’s biggest retailer will exclusively sell the new $98 product, called Boxee TV, in more than 3,000 U.S. locations during the holiday season. Wal-Mart will set up displays and send out marketing materials for the device, a small black box with a remote control that can access free TV broadcast channels as well as Internet content.

“It’s going to be a big launch for us,” Avner Ronen, Boxee’s chief executive officer, said in an interview. “There’s a big difference between having your product being carried by retailers, where it sits on the shelf, and getting real marketing behind it.”

Channel Surfing
Last year, Boxee sold 120,000 of its devices, which are manufactured by D-Link Corp. (2332), while Roku sold 1.4 million, according to Jordan Selburn, an analyst for research firm IHS ISuppli. Apple said last week that the company sold 5.3 million Apple TV devices in the past 12 months. Roku’s devices range in price from $50 to $100, while Apple TV sells for $99.

Consumers haven’t flocked to these devices because they don’t have many of the shows offered on cable networks, Selburn said. That’s not expected to change any time soon as broadcasters and pay-TV operators look to protect their lucrative businesses, he said.

Boxee TV is a compelling option because it pulls in broadcast channels and Internet video into a single system, Ronen said. The device, which has a built-in antenna for accessing over-the-air TV signals, shows TV channels when it boots up, unlike services that typically ask users to navigate menus at the outset to decide what to watch.

“You turn on the TV, and it’s a familiar ground,” Ronen said. “We don’t believe the future of the TV is going to be a future filled with apps. When you turn on the TV, you don’t want 60 icons. You just want to watch something.”

This is a huge change in product direction for Boxee. I’m impressed. The old product vision was not hitting the target. It was nowhere close to product/market fit. The company didn’t choose to be buried with that vision. Instead it went to a really new and creative place and came back with something useful and well differentiated. Personally I really want the new Boxee, even though my old Boxee ended up just gathering dust.

YouTube is the new audio

Jay Fienberg on Video as the New Audio:

The “videos” on YouTube are web pages. But they are very object-y, with the video player being the object people see, share, favorite, etc.

Meaning: in reality the new format is not video in isolation but YouTube pages as a whole. The change isn’t towards generic video files, it’s towards a web-based user experience that includes the web-based containers for videos, and which for the most part is specific to YouTube.

Supply vs value

Anu Kirk’s blogToo Much Music:

In economic terms, the supply of music is vastly increasing – a result of dramatic drops in the costs of creation and distribution combined with many more creators.

Part of the value of music is as shared cultural reference.

I am writing this in a coffee shop. A few minutes ago a conversation broke out about the Spice Girls. Multiple tables joined in to comment on the differences between Ginger, Scary, Sporty and Baby. It was a moment of bonding and community. People who had been staring into their private worlds had a chance to meet.

This was only possible because we all knew who the Spice Girls were. When there is more music, less of it is widely known, so it can’t serve as a landmark anymore. With increased supply, the value goes down.


Koreans have a history of using television for radio. They turn on the TV to listen to music.

Why K-Pop is taking over the world (NPR): In Korea pop music always comes with an image. … While our record labels were built on radio, their record labels were built on television. (This point /via Jonathan Altman).

And then there was YouTube, where music doesn’t exist unless there is imagery attached.

But what about hypertext? Why should audio be extended with video instead of web pages?

Web pages are a superset of video. They can include video, but they can include other features as well, and these other features might be more applicable. For example lyrics in a video are great, but you can’t resize the font or do a web search.

In the past I have blogged about media players letting you provide a bundle of audio and HTML together, and treating the bundle almost like they would treat plain old MP3.

But maybe this is a misunderstanding of the value. Maybe what users want is not web, it’s media, and video is the thing they desire because it speaks in a sensual, emotive, expressive language.

Video is the new audio

Isn’t it strange that the best source for on-demand music on the open internet is YouTube, a video website?

Maybe what’s happening is that music recordings without moving pictures are becoming obsolete.

Attaching images to sound doesn’t degrade the sound. They are purely additive. Almost no matter what the images are, they can only be an enhancement. And if stills along the lines of album art are good, moving pictures along the lines of a music video are better.

Why not always use video? Why continue to release pictureless audio?

YouTube’s content ID updates

Plagiarism Today has worthwhile commentary on the YouTube content ID update. Read it there.

What strikes me is the depth of the bureaucracy under construction at YouTube. That’s not to complain, because it seems reasonable – the complexity of the solution flows from the complexity of the problem.

There are three layers in their stack:

  1. There is a layer related to copyright infringement. This is about the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA and related law like the Grokster inducement decision. If Google is successful with this layer, it avoids getting sued.
  2. There is a layer for content ID. This identifies which works are embodied in uploaded videos, and maps them to works in recordings uploaded by copyright holder. If Google is successful with this layer it minimizes false positives (reporting matches that aren’t correct) and false negatives (failing to report matches that are correct). This is basically a science problem.
  3. There is a layer for content licensing. This strikes deals with copyright holders, sells ads, inserts ads, and pays the copyright holders.

Where is the user in this stack? Product. If users/uploaders are treated fairly and respectfully, it’s a win on the product management side.

The stack is a unified whole. Infringement and licensing are two facets of the same problem, content ID links them.

As Janko Roettgers explains the YouTube update:

Adding the DMCA to this set of tools could have two significant effects: It could help uploaders defend the use of third-party material when it is covered by fair-use exemptions – and it could help YouTube to convince more content owners to go down the path of monetization. After all, why chose the hard path when the easier one actually helps you to make money?

Coping with copyright law – the first layer – is a universal problem. I would be surprised if there is a single big Internet company that doesn’t get DMCA-based requests to take down content. But it’s joined tightly with monetization and licensing. YouTube is blazing the trail but won’t be the only one to go down it. You can assume that Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, eBay, etc are all growing their own versions of the stack, each one with its own complexity.

With something like YouTube’s content ID program, licensing and takedown requests are sides of the same coin. Infringement is unmet demand. YouTube’s licensing program enables demand to be met.