[LINK] open source Boxee

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Mon Jan 19 20:00:58 AEDT 2009

Boxee, Used to View Web on TV, Generates Buzz  (www.boxee.tv)

BRAD STONE www.nytimes.com  Published: January 16, 2009 

Piping Internet video into a television seems as if it should be simple — 
after all, a screen is a screen. But consumer electronics and media 
companies have been moving toward that combination with painstaking 
caution, both because of technical limitations and to protect their 
existing business models.

Now, with an Internet start-up’s hubris and whimsical name, an 11-
employee New York company called Boxee is barging into the fray. It is 
treading over the carefully negotiated business arrangements of much 
larger companies and garnering accolades from tech-heads for doing what 
the big guys have failed to do.

Boxee bills its software as a simple way to access multiple Internet 
video and music sites, and to bring them to a large monitor or television 
that one might be watching from a sofa across the room. 

Some of Boxee’s fans also think it is much more: a way to euthanize that 
costly $100-a-month cable or satellite connection.

“Boxee has allowed me to replace cable with no remorse,” said Jef 
Holbrook, a 27-year-old actor in Columbus, Ga., who recently downloaded 
the Boxee software to the $600 Mac Mini he has connected to his 
television. “Most people my age would like to just pay for the channels 
they want, but cable refuses to give us that option. Services like Boxee, 
that allow users choice, are the future of television.”

The software, which is free and available for download at www.boxee.tv, 
works on Mac and Linux computers, and on Apple’s set-top box, Apple TV. A 
version of Boxee for Windows PCs is being tested among a limited group of 

Boxee gives users a single interface to access all the photos, video and 
music on their hard drives, along with a wide range of television shows, 
movies and songs from sites like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, CNN.com and 

Unlike the increasingly long and convoluted channel directories on most 
cable and satellite systems, Boxee offers a well-organized directory.

The most ardent Boxee fanatics — almost all of its 200,000 early adopters 
seem to have turned into online evangelists for the company — then 
connect their computers to their living room televisions. 

The buzz around Boxee is creating ripples of curiosity among the people 
who have built billion-dollar businesses delivering television and movies 
into the home the old-fashioned way. 

On the first day of the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month in 
Las Vegas, two dozen chief technology officers from the country’s largest 
cable operators visited Boxee’s demonstration area. Then they told their 
colleagues, who swarmed the booth over the next three days of the show.

Several cable companies declined to comment on their impressions of 
Boxee. One executive at a major cable provider said the Boxee service was 
intriguing and garnering an impressive amount of attention. But he noted 
that the company’s business prospects appeared limited. 

“The real money in this business is made by serving the masses. There is 
a lot about Boxee that doesn’t work, like the business model, which is 
really nonexistent right now,” said the executive, who did not want to be 
named while criticizing another company.

Avner Ronen, Boxee’s 33-year-old founder and chief executive, said the 
company could make money after it built up its user base, “The challenge 
for the cable industry is how they grapple with the fact that this is in 
some way a substitution for some of the things they do,” he said.

At the very least, Boxee may spur consumer electronics companies to move 
faster to bring the Internet to their devices. The Consumer Electronics 
Show this year was full of announcements by companies bringing some 
pieces of Internet content to the television. For example, LG 
Electronics, the Korean TV maker, said it would bring Netflix’s Watch 
Instantly movie service to a new line of high-definition TVs. Samsung 
said it would bring Internet content, in the form of widgets from Yahoo, 
to some of its televisions.

Boxee is betting that consumers accustomed to the freedom of the Internet 
will not be interested in a dribble of online services on their 
televisions but will want more comprehensive access to Web video.

“Consumers and developers aren’t going to put up with the idea of one 
piece of hardware talking to only a few services,” said Bijan Sabet, a 
partner at Spark Capital, one of two East Coast venture capital firms 
that invested a total of $4 million in Boxee last year. 

“It would be like getting a Verizon phone you can only use to call other 
Verizon subscribers. It’s not a natural thing.”

Because its software is open source and can be modified and improved by 
any user or developer, Boxee can theoretically move quickly to add new 
video or music sites to its service, or to tailor itself to other 
electronic devices.

For instance, three months ago, Web developers in North Carolina created 
a special program to allow people to put Boxee on their Apple TV boxes. 
The program has since been downloaded more than 100,000 times, but 
primarily by people with some level of technical sophistication and 
patience. It must be reinstalled on the device every time Apple updates 
its software.

In developing its service, Boxee is not always asking for permission. 
Apple, for example, appears to prefer that Apple TV users get their 
content from iTunes, the company’s media store. Apple has shown little 
interest in giving third-party developers the freedom to create programs 
for the device, as they are allowed to do for Apple’s iPhone. An Apple 
spokesman said the company would not comment on Boxee. 

Lawyers say that Boxee does not appear to be doing anything illegal, but 
that companies like Apple could try to take steps to prevent Boxee from 
accessing their content or working on their devices. 

Mr. Ronen said that like many start-ups, Boxee was definitely leaping 
without looking. “Don’t assume we have lawyers. That’s expensive,” he 

But he also noted that Boxee was giving consumers something they have 
long asked for: true access to Internet-style breadth and depth of 
content from their living room sofas. “The users and the technology will 
always move faster than the industry by definition,” Mr. Ronen said.


Message sent using MelbPC WebMail Server

More information about the Link mailing list