An article about Boxee, originally published in 2010 in Scion Magazine. Story by Evan Shamoon.
Boxee is the latest development in the ongoing battle to finally give viewers control of their television sets. Essentially, Boxee is software that brings together and organizes network and cable programming, digital photo galleries, web video, home movies and everything else that viewers would rather watch on a large home TV screen than the cramped confines of a laptop’s monitor. It’s navigation is clean, intuitive and currently downloadable at boxee.tv.
Billing itself as a “social media center,” Boxee enables people to view, rate and recommend content to friends through Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools. From it, users can access their hard drive’s entire music collection, freeing songs from weak speakers and earbud headphones. It can also play pretty much any audio or video file format thrown at it, even a AVI rip of Fraggle Rock: The Lost Episodes scored via BitTorrent.
The company also has an incredibly open-source approach to home entertainment. “We don’t want to be a gatekeeper at all,” says Andrew Kippen, Boxee’s VP of Marketing. “If you have the skills, we’re like, Go for it, here are your tools.” The idea is that anything users want Boxee to do, they’ll be able to program themselves, or download somebody else’s plug-in. The result will be like an app store where everything is free and there’s no one imposing control and restrictions.
While copyright laws still apply, Boxee isn’t going to be the one deciding what users can and can’t do. So if can be done on a computer, it can be done on Boxee. “In a web browser you can access anything you want. If the browser started blocking the illegal stuff, you’d stop using that web browser,” says Kippen. While Boxee will only have high-quality, copyrighted content in their official Boxee repository, what users download or watch on their own time is their own business.
This year, Boxee will release its new Boxee Box device, made in conjunction with D-Link. Even at a cursory glance, it’s clear the Boxee Box is unlike any other piece of home electronics on the market. Rather than the standard rectangular footprint—long, wide and flat—it’s an angular, bisected cube, making it more sculpture than set-top box.
It’s a bold statement by the company. Other set-top boxes lay flat for a reason, namely to allow users to stack another on top of it. Boxee’s point, however, is clear: You simply won’t need anything else.
Users won’t need the Boxee Box to run Boxee, though, which points to the company’s larger goal: to be free. “We come at problems from the consumer angle,” says Kippen. “The goal was to be as flexible as possible with hardware. If you have an extra laptop, or a Media Center PC, or a regular laptop that you don’t mind plugging and unplugging from your TV, you can use that. If you need a device [to run Boxee on], the Boxee Box is cheaper than a computer, with the same functionality.” (For now, the Boxee Box will cost $200.) The company wants it embedded in new internet-connected Blu-Ray players, cable boxes and videogame consoles, something they hope to achieve by licensing it for free to device manufacturers. Ubiquity is the goal.
Of course, getting cable companies and content providers on board with its vision will be something of an uphill battle, but Boxee is hoping it can leverage the support of its fanatical userbase that’s already one million strong and growing. And that’s with Boxee still in the beta stage.
Tags: Scion Magazine, Boxee