November 9, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Should Music Fans ‘Cut the Cord’ with TV-Enabled Boxee?

Cable boxes don’t run music apps, and judging from the cable companies’ record, they’re not going to be any time soon. Standard cable boxes still aren’t at the level where TiVo was five years ago in terms of interface and functionality. Adding a healthy selection of music apps seems out of the question.

Boxee, on the other hand, does run music apps — including some recent additions (below). And soon, it could pull in free, over-the-air television programming, which is broadcast at higher definition than what you get over cable or satellite. The reasons to “cut the cord” are starting to stack up — even if it means missing out on some programming. There’s plenty on anyway, and some of us like to listen to music at home in addition to watching Disperate Housepets, or whatever it’s called.

Today brings news from GigaOm that could give music fans more reason to think about severing their connection to the cable television business: Boxee, which runs music apps you won’t find on any cable box, is reportedly adding a TV tuner dongle that will allow the devices to add free, HD broadcast television programming to the video services Boxee already incorporates from the internet.

It’s been a while since we checked in with Boxee, so we asked Boxee vice president of marketing Andrew Kippen to confirm that this (awesome) TV tuner idea is really happening, whether it would involve any DVR-like functionality, and what progress the company has made with music apps lately.

He declined to comment about the TV tuner, but told about some new music apps that have appeared on the device (also available in a free software version) since we last checked in.

We’ve been loving on music for the past few months — launched Spotify, MOG, and Grooveshark. [I] think there’s still much to be done on the video front as far as the core product is concerned, but we hope the addition of these music streaming services helps turn the Boxee Box into the jukebox we always wanted it to be.

Despite attempts by television content companies to convince people not to “cut the cord” and end their subscriptions, such as bundling cable with phone and internet and requiring television subscriptions for those who want to watch premium programming on smartphones and tablets, hundreds of thousands of cable subscribers dropped out last year.

Apple iTV is still basically a rumor, and Google TV only just started adding the support for third-party Android apps it’s been talking about for a year or so. Meanwhile, the current AppleTV product doesn’t run third-party iOS apps other than the ones that come bundled (iCloud, iTunes Radio, YouTube, Vimeo, and, most importantly, AirPlay-enabled apps).

So the door is open for Boxee (or perhaps Roku) to become the music fan’s set-top box of choice — but it would be open wider if this TV tuner report is accurate, because music fans do appreciate the chance to get something for free.