[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-ups 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 Boxees 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 Apples 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 countrys largest
cable operators visited Boxees 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 companys business prospects appeared limited.
The real money in this business is made by serving the masses. There is
a lot about Boxee that doesnt 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, Boxees 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 Netflixs 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 arent 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. Its 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
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
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 companys 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 Apples 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. Dont assume we have lawyers. Thats 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.
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