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Boxee – a serious contender for your Media Streaming bandwidth.

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For the past 3 years a small group of 11 people have quietly worked with Mr. Avner Ronen, the CEO & co-founder of Boxee on an idea born from a group of 5 friends who began using Xbox Media Center (XBMC – open source software for the original Xbox that allowed people to play digital media on their TVs) back in 2004. The team grew from the original 5 friends into the current 11 and have worked to extend the base code for XBMC with online sources like Hulu and Netflix as well as social networking into a user base of around 1 million users.

So what exactly is Boxee?  Well, right now Boxee describes themselves as the first “social” media center who’s free, open source, downloadable software is changing the way consumers experience media. Quoting Boxee’s site:

On a computer or connected to an HDTV, Boxee gives people a truly connected digital entertainment experience to enjoy movies, TV shows, music and photos, as well as streaming content from websites like Netflix, MLB.TV, Comedy Central, Pandora, Last.fm, and Flickr. Not only that, but you can share information about what you’re watching with friends so they can find it legally and enjoy it too. You can even post things you like to social networks like Twitter, Last.FM, or Tumblr. All this from within a visually driven interface that makes media come to life.



Boxee currently supports a wide range of platforms, including Apple Macintosh, Linux, Windows, and Apple TV.  This list of platforms is sure to expand in the near future and I would bet that there will be clients built for a wide variety of cell phones to allow people access to their media remotely.

The Boxee client interface

When you launch the Boxee client and log in with your user ID, you are presented with a crisp clean interface and will be viewing the “Home” page.  From here, you have the ability to navigate and view / listen to all kinds of media located on your computer (or better yet, your Home Theater PC [HTPC]!) such as Photos, Music, Movies, TV Shows (if you’ve got a tuner card and record TV).  The Boxee client can be configured to add multiple sources to add your media to its collection.  Not only by adding local folders to the different categories (i.e. photos, videos, movies, etc), but it will also scan your Local Area Network (LAN) for UPnP.  When I did this, it found my iomega StorCenter (Samba OS) and listed all of the folders on it.  When I went down to UPnP, it immediately popped up with all of my Windows 7 Workstations & Laptop Media Center databases, it even found my Windows Home Server!  Pretty cool!  (yeah…I’m a geek…but not a Nerd!)   Although setting up these sources from around your Integrated Home is a manual process, it only takes a few minutes, and it’s very cool to have everything there in once central place for you!

But wait…isn’t this about Streaming Media? Why yes, it is, and while playing media files across your LAN from different sources around your home is actually considered streaming, we want to focus on the good stuff…streaming media, good media, from the Internet!  If you go into the TV category and check out the TV Show Library, you are presented with a TON of different TV shows to choose from!  When it comes to Movies, our friends over at Slashgear reported recently that Boxee has just added support for RoxioNow, courtesy of a collaboration with Sonic Solutions, to give users access to premium content:

In fact, not only will they be able to access the content – RoxioNow is used by Blockbuster, Lionsgate and Best Buy for their streaming multimedia services, among other companies – but they should be able to do so on more than one platform.  Boxee eventually intends for users to be able to buy content on, say, their Boxee Box, and then watch it on any RoxioNow compliant home or portable device.


Boxee Front View

So what if you don’t happen to have a Home Theater PC (HTPC) hooked up to that HDTV of yours? Well no need to fret because the Boxee Box will be released in November to take the need for having a PC connected to your Home Theater out of the equation; the Boxee Box is built by D-Link and will bring all of your favorite TV shows and movies from the Internet or hard drives of computers in your home onto your TV for you. Boxee’s Avner Ronen described it like this in an article in Electronic House magazine:

“Our vision is to make the Boxee experience on a set top box as good as (and where we can, better than) the one you already know on a PC. The goal is to play HD videos from the web or a local network in 1080p and use hardware acceleration whenever possible. And to provide a TV browser experience that can handle almost everything you throw at it, including Flash 10.1. Not to mention making all this happen for an affordable price and on a quiet device that will not feel obsolete 12 months after you buy it.”

One of the coolest features of what Boxee is all about is the whole “social networking” aspect of the application.  Remember all of the emails at work that would fly back and forth about what Jack Bauer just did on the latest installment of 24?  Well imagine how fast and fluid the conversation will be in an interface like Boxee.  Yeah, now you’re seeing the vision aren’t you?

There is so much more to this service and appliance that I haven’t even covered here, like all of the Apps that give you access to even more content like Netflix, MTV Music, and NHL GameCenter to name just 3 of the 25 currently listed Apps under the “My Apps” section.  I suggest you head on over to Boxee and get yourself an account, download the client, and check this out.

You’ve got until November to decide a few things:

  • Is this service is all it’s cracked up to be?
  • Can the Boxee Box compensate for the flexibility of having a Windows 7 HTPC integrated with Windows Home Server?

and…

  • Will this really have a chance against the likes of Google TV?

At this point one thing can said with relative ease:  Boxee has really nailed it here by combining Streaming Media with Social Networking!

Post a comment and tell us what you think!


[via Slashgear – Electronic House – Boxee]

About the Author

BillyPut simply, Tom (a.k.a Billy) loves technology! He’s been involved in the IT world since leaving the Navy in 1992 and has moved his way up to the top on the systems engineering side. After taking a short deviation into home automation, he’s never been able to shake his love for creating an environment of complete integration at home. If there is a way to make the various systems in his home more seamless (even if they weren’t originally meant to talk to each other) he’s up to the challenge of figuring out how to make it work!View all posts by Billy

  1. John
    John07-22-2010

    Wow, great article on Boxee. I've installed it before, but did not really play with it all too much. You have convinced me to install it on my Windows HTPC. Thanks Billy.

  2. Jack
    Jack07-27-2010

    What? SO the plugs been pulled on Boxee? The box looks cool though. It's like a cube. I see the screen. It's sad when new innovation goes to the wayside.

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Setup & Integration of Home Technology: Home Theater - Home Server - HTPC - Home Networks