March 24, 2009

Boxee v. Hulu: Endgame

For those of you who haven't been following - In this corner: Boxee's a very nice media center type "10 foot" UI for watching video content (local and internet) using your PC/Mac. In the red trunks: Hulu's a "free" browser based video service backed by NBC/Universal and Fox.

Round 1: Boxee's supports Hulu in Boxee and goes from "nice" to "useful/interesting"
Round 2: Hulu asks Boxee to drop Hulu support. Boxee complies.
Round 3: Sort of.  Its not supported out of the box(ee :)), but Boxee lets users manually add Hulu support.
Round 5: Boxee adds a browser.  (Mozilla/Firefox - read through the post)

Now it gets interesting...

So... much like the machinations of ESPN, the real question is why? 

It's not entirely clear to me - and Boxee's end run should bring it to a head;  If I connect a browser to my TV, why shouldn't I be able to play content that works on my PC?  As a practical matter, there's no good way to differentiate (in the medium term - short term hacks might work)

I kind of get the point for the content guys - they want to decide how and where their content gets consumed.  Here's the thing - they may not get that choice: free is free.

(Incidentally this is less of an issue for folks like us than you may think: either way its over our connectivity, and content aqcuisition is a big part of our costs - think it through.  For example, note that Netflix likes streaming - because they charge you a subscription.)

It seems like the issue is that, ultimately, the Internet will erase a huge amount of value (valuation?  perhaps not quite the same thing) from the world.  I'm not arguing about whether that's a good thing or a bad thing - arguably, this was artificial value.  Just saying its so... question is how you adjust.