AfterDawn: Tech news

Boxee wants to hear from the Afterdawn community

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 01 Mar 2009 17:08 User comments (11)

Boxee wants to hear from the Afterdawn community Boxee is a relatively new, free media center application for Linux, Intel Macs, and Apple TV boxes, and a new Windows version is in closed alpha testing. Last week I talked to Andrew Kippen of Boxee about their software, and the first thing he told me was how much they're looking forward to hearing from the Afterdawn community.
If you'd like to check out Boxee for yourself you can get the Linux, OS X, and Apple TV versions from their website. Stay tuned to Afterdawn for an announcement when the Windows alpha opens to the public. According to Andrew they're hoping to reach that point in another 2-3 months.

Make sure to check out Afterdawn's preview of the Boxee for Windows alpha

The technology

Boxee is built on XBMC, an open source program initially written for the original Xbox but eventually ported to a number of different environments including Linux, OSX, and Windows. With a hack it can even be installed on an Apple TV box.

One benefit to this is the ability to use XBMC plugins, like one released recently to add Hulu support. I asked Andrew if they were planning to keep Boxee updated with the latest XBMC developments. He couldn't promise anything, but did tell me this about their developers' relationship with the XBMC project.

"We work hand in hand with XBMC. We're exchanging code all the time. We make our code that's available under GPL available to them. The idea, I'm sure, is to make those cross compatible as much as possible."

He also pointed out that CEO Avner Ronen was a XBMC developer before working on Boxee.

Boxee's social network

Rather than limiting you to sources the developers think you'll be interested in, or even requiring you to find what you're looking for and adding it manually, Boxee integrates a network of "friends" who can recommend videos, music, and even images to each other.

Boxee is primarily intended for bridging the gap between the internet and your home theater setup. As Andrew pointed out to me that's what makes the social aspect so important. There is so much content on the internet one person could never find everything they're interested in on their own.

Click for large image
Whether you're watching a video online or listening to music from your hard drive, you can rate it so your friends will know what you think about it. If it's particularly good you can even recommend it to one or more friends.


Attracting content

It's easy to understand media center PC owners would like Boxee, but what about the content owners? After all, without their cooperation there's no revenue sharing, and without revenue sharing it would be hard, perhaps impossible, to make Boxee profitable while still giving it away to users.

In fact it's simpler than you might think. "Boxee's goal is to drive users to sources of legal content," says Kippen. He goes on to explain that the social aspect of Boxee is a big key to this.

Even though a member may recommend something they've obtained from an unauthorized source, like a TV show downloaded via P2P, Boxee will try to find a legal version to watch for anyone following up on that recommendation.

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Let's say you were subscribed to a BitTorrent RSS feed to download episodes of CSI automatically. If you recommend them to your friends, Boxee will actually take them to the official CBS video stream, complete with the standard commercials.


According to Andrew, content owners have responded positively to the idea. That seems like an obvious reaction, but it's important to remember that such rational responses can't be taken for granted.

You don't have to look any further than Hulu's recent decision to remove their content from Boxee for proof.

Fortunately, most content owners are apparently open to the idea of Boxee, but there are still hurdles to be cleared. "Over the last several years they've been working to license content to the web," Andrew said. "I think the idea of bringing content back to the TV screen - they don't have a model for that yet."

Commercial services

But what if you're more interested in pay services like the streaming video offering from Netflix or downloads from Amazon VOD? The OS X version already features a Netflix client, and once the Windows version reaches a stable release it should also. Amazon support isn't in the works yet, but could be added in the future.

Andrew explained that the Boxee team's priorities depend greatly on user feedback, which they occasionally solicit in the form of polls on their company blog. Netflix support, for example, was implemented within 3 weeks after one of these polls closed.

Another feature that may be in a future release is TV tuner support. At first it seems a little strange that a program marketed to people with computers connected to their TVs doesn't include this already. On the other hand it's not really part of their core functionality.

Andrew told me "I think we wanted to take advantage of all the content that's available online first. We're thinking of including some kind of DVR functionality down the road."


A Boxee box

Something else that's likely to be in Boxee's future is a set-top box you can just buy and connect to your TV. And maybe even integration into other hardware like Blu-ray players.

They would like hardware vendors to see Boxee as "an interface that drives users' interaction with content."


If you have a comment or question about Boxee's software, feel free to post it either here or on our Media Center PC forum. It's your chance to make sure the developers know what you want Boxee to be.

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11 user comments

11.3.2009 18:56

So far my first impressions of this software are very positive! Using it mainly for my HTPC as a media centre it is an extremely polished interface for an alpha testing. 1 or 2 little hiccups, but nothing that would stop me from using the app as my prime source of media playback and it can only get better....Gosh I sound like a spokesperson from the company , but really I have to say super impressed and this was really what I was looking for to tie in all of my media content from downloads to internet TV. Good Job!!!!!

21.3.2009 19:51

I might touch it with a 10 foot pole...
If this is any good, I might try it out on my computer running linux. Forget M$, they can bite the dust.

32.3.2009 0:39

Well since it's based on xbmc code & considering how xbmc works on my xp machines & xboxes you can put my name down for a copy of this when it arrives,it'd be sweet to have an xbox version but i spose it wouldn't be worth it

42.3.2009 0:53
varnull
Inactive

vlc handles all my multimedia needs.. including anything streamed.

52.3.2009 10:04

After seeing the first thread on here about boxee I thought that it was worth searching the internet to find a copy, (couldn't wait for the release) and the more I use this the more I wonder, why am I still paying so much to comcast for tv.....this rocks....I've seen the future...LOL!!!!

63.3.2009 5:39

Bah include DVB, DVBS and DVBC card support and recording and im sold, till then i think i will be sticking to WMC.

73.3.2009 14:28

How does this compare to media portal for playing files from HD?
I've been a media portal fan for a while but frankly, I'm getting sick and tired of it crashing and requiring updates.
Remote control support? (Firefly RF remote?)

I might have to give this a try.

85.3.2009 6:51

Originally posted by ThePastor:
How does this compare to media portal for playing files from HD?
I've been a media portal fan for a while but frankly, I'm getting sick and tired of it crashing and requiring updates.
Remote control support? (Firefly RF remote?)

I might have to give this a try.

I can't speak for HD-based content since I didn't really try it, but remote support is a little spotty in the Windows alpha right now. However, there are some third party program people are using to make things work better. I would certainly expect to see better remote support when it goes into public alpha, although I haven't specifically asked so that's just speculation on my part. It pretty much has to have that support before it can get out of alpha or else they won't learn much from beta testing besides people are pissed when their remotes don't work.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 05 Mar 2009 @ 6:54

95.3.2009 17:58

I was able to find a copy of this on a torrent site so I'll give it a look tonite.
I'm willing to bet that there are alot of Media Portal or Windows Media Center users who are dieing to get ahold of a stable Media center program for playing all types of media. This could be just the thing.
I agree about remote compatability. Even Media Portal has trouble with remotes. It's programmable, but a major pain.

106.3.2009 2:33

errm no, vmc plays mkv, ts, avi, dvb etc fine and stable for me, the lack of dvb support will keep me well away until its implimented.

116.3.2009 20:51

what about A hookup with DTV or Dish or Net Flix,save the hassle of
renting and copying,or torrent hookups that are a pain,as well as the viruses that come with torrents.

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