For Apple TV users, of course, the big news is that after an extensive push by the hard-working developers behind the project, the new version of the software that’s compatible with the recently-software-updated Apple TV 2.3 is available now.
Seems not only media-junkies have been paying attention. Boxee recently revealed a $4 million investment from Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures which will see Bijan Sabet from Spark and Fred Wilson from Union Square join the Boxee board.
What is Boxee?
Boxee lets you access content from third-party providers including Hulu, CBS, Comedy Central, or Last.fm using an intuitive and neatly-designed interface. It will play most audio and video file formats and also display images from various sources, including physical media, flash drives and the ‘Net. YouTube, Apple movie trailer and podcasts are also supported, as are image sharing services, Flickr and Picasa. There’s a feast of additional features, including Twitter support.
Most of the thousands – and it is thousands, there were over 50,000 downloads of the alpha software in the last six weeks, the developers told Distorted Loop – think Boxee is the media centre software Apple TV should have pre-installed…
The new board members have plenty of relevant experience. Bijan was involved in WebTV Networks and Moxi Digital, while Wilson has been investing in internet start-ups from the early days. As the Boxee shifters put it, “they understand the web, the users and what makes a product successful on a unique level. together they bring to boxee lots of relevant experience.”
Convergence culture is an open culture
In a note revealing the deal, Boxee also observes a sea-change in the way people access their entertainment, as more and more people turn to the Web for their fix of fun, news or factual entertainment.
In theory the technology is already there to watch what you want, when you want and how you want. Add social networking and converged systems which enable you to check song lyrics while listening to a song, or online karaoke parties, and you get the idea of broadcasting migrating from being a passively-consumed medium into an interactive, immersive experience. And that’s what Boxee is focused on enabling, through open standards and platform-agnosticism.
Plans for 2009
With four million dollars in the company coffers, you can expect Boxee to bring itself out of the alpha testing box in 2009, with the developers committing to the following targets for the year ahead:
– Grow out of our comfortable closed-alpha cocoon and launch a kick-ass beta;
– Build even more functionality and content into Boxee while making it easier to navigate;
– Listen to user requests, ideas and frustrations (and improve the product accordingly)
– Work with team-xbmc, developers and partners to extend boxee beyond the confines of our limited resources
– Finish the year (2009) with ~ 1,000,000 users.
We’ve also heard rumours the team plan to introduce their own dedicated set-top Boxee box in 2009, and hope to license the software to third-parties for use in their own set-top boxes.
More channels coming
In a note released late last night the team revealed results taken from a recent survey of users that explored what other services the team should make available through Boxee.
The results make interesting reading of themself, however, leading names by category include:
TV Networks: HBO 27% (310 votes), Discovery 21% (237 votes), ABC 21% (236 votes). HBO doesn’t make its content available online (yet), so the team plans work to support the latter broadcasters.
Film services: Reflecting Boxee’s predominant US user mix, Netflix support will be introduced in a future release, “we should do it better than Xbox 360,” they promise.
Video Services: Joost took the majority vote, and Boxee will introduce support for this in future, Again, reflecting the US mix, iPlayer (second place) grabbed just 15 per cent of the vote. Word from this commentator (in the UK) is to urge support for iPlayer also, if it’s possible.
Live broadcast services: Ustream takes the prize, expect support in future.
Music services: Pandora took 70 per cent of the vote. “I was a bit surprised to see such a low demand for Rhapsody and eMusic. It seems the subscription-model for music is struggling (at least among our users),” the developers observe.
Photo sharing: Facebook and .Mac/Mobile Me win in this category. “Need to look into the Facebook API’s. Hope it’s easy enough,” Boxee team warns.
Updated: “atvusb-creator-1.0.b9 and atv-win-1.0.b9 posted at https://code.google.com/p/atvusb-creator/downloads/list. Both include XBMCLauncher-0.8 and SoftwareMenu-0.741 as well as ssh/bintuils.
“This release will fix some of the problems with ATV 2.3 but unfortunately not all. Sometimes xbmc/boxee is launched but nothing shows up on screen. This happens when in 720p or 1080p mode. We call this the screen release issue. Here’s how you get back to Frontrow if this happens:
“Boxee: -> hit menu 2 times
“XBMC: -> right, right, select, select
“Included is with XBMCLauncher 0.8 one very nice new feature
-enabling/disabling of ATV autoupdates
“We’re currently working on an exciting new solution for 100 percent reliable launch into frontscreen. Look for this in the next version.” Scott Davilla explains.