…and for those wanting to cancel their cable/sky packages. Here’s why:
I’ve been a member of the Boxee Alpha test for a while now and it showed a huge amount of potential. Boxee is, at its most simple, a media player that draws content from the net (Division3, iPlayer, Blip.tv etc.) and from your local network (ripped DVDs, your music library, downloaded tv shows). This content is then presented in a wonderful ‘made for big screen’ (read: your tv, not your 15″ laptop monitor) easily navigable interface. A rather gorgeous interface too, I might add. Well, certainly in the Alpha, I’m a little unsettled by the new beta interface but it is well ahead of the rigidness of the AppleTV and the ugly mess of any recent Microsoft efforts. Boxee is based on XBMC, a brilliant Open-source media player with a similar, but not as ambitious, desire to take over your tv. Boxee adds web-content to XBMC’s marvelous local network media management. I’ve been running XBMC on a hand-me-down 1st-gen XBox (thanks Ed!) for a couple of years now and it kicks the ass of Windows Media Centre and the like. It just works. No codec bullshit, no delay, no fiddling.
This alpha potential has been realized in the form of the newly announced beta and the Boxee Box. Although Boxee is quite intuitive to use, it can be a total bugger to setup, as was XBMC before it. Your options are hack your Apple TV or build a Linux machine and dive into a bundle of .debs and Pulse audio problems. Oh, and good luck on 64-bit Ubuntu, it’s a bloody nightmare! The Boxee Box removes all these headaches and essentially makes Boxee suitable for non-geeks. It’s built by DLink, who in my experience seem to churn out reasonable rooters/modems, and we’re promised it’ll cost a quite reasonable $200. This investment will open up a world of couch-accessible online content. There is a growing amount of independent media available online and bringing it from tiny laptop screens and onto that new 37″ monster you have in your living room could be the shot in the arm that many indie shows need.
I was going to blog about how stupid the case design was. “Don’t they understand that people are still going to have audio equipment/a DVD recorder/etc under their TV?”, I prepared myself to rant, “don’t they realize that such a bizarre shape will make it impossible to stack and fit under televisions?”. But as further details have emerged, it seems that the Box is so small that none of this should be a concern and as the remote control is RF then you could even hide it behind your flat-screen if you want.
The closest thing we’ve seen to this has been the Apple TV, which like Boxee could view web content. But being Apple, you were tied into the Apple iTunes marketplace, and thinking. No thanks, Jobs, no DRM crap for me. The Boxee Box’s design, cost and potential have lead to a very desirable little product and it is a testament to the Open-source projects that have gone before it. Put me down for one.
(More details on the Boxee blog)