On Monday we were invited to the unveiling event for Boxee beta. Boxee as we have stated in past posts is "an open source, cross platform Swiss Army knife solution for media streaming and content," this event served not only to display new features in the Beta, but also to unveil the Boxee Box.
New features in the beta include a re-designed the home screen to make it easier to navigate to your favorite content. The beta also allows you to see recommendations from friends on Boxee, Facebook or Twitter as well as from Boxee's staff and partners and the latest episodes from your favorite shows or things you've saved for later. It is also easier to share what you are watching and put your own custom message, which will be sent to your Boxee, Twitter and Facebook followers.
The new menu looks good and it is unfortunate that the beta crashed more than once during the event. Boxee now organizes TV shows by season and episode, and let's you filter by whether freely available or not. The better organization of TV shows is a big improvement, something that is definitely needed if they are going to try and woo viewers from other sources such as Hulu.
The Beta also includes easier App navigation. While at the event a select group of App developers spoke about their Boxee apps. Our favorites include Qurious and Trend Lines.
How many times have you been watching a film or a TV show and wondered where you had seen that actor before, or what was the name of the song that was playing? With Qurious the answer is right there, like your own personal pop up video. Qurious is an application that enriches the television watching experience. Qurious knows the actors, songs, products, and topics of whatever you're watching, and helps you learn more. We love the concept and execution of this App and cannot wait to play with it.
Trend Lines "dynamically curates online video content based on current, socially-driven trends." Trend Lines tells you what is buzzing on the internet, pulled from multiple sources ranging from Twitter to the New York Times. You can also generate video playlists based on how much time you have to watch... perfect for short work breaks!
The Boxee Box was designed by Astro Studios, the same team that designed the XBox 360 and it is manufactured by D-Link. Frankly, we are not impressed by the design, it feels like something that we have seen before, many times over in gaming consoles and PCs. According to a Boxee stat quoted at the event, over 80% of Boxee users are on an Mac, it's surprising then that the box design is so incredibly un-Apple like.
Boxee Box Tech Specs:
- HDMI – one inexpensive HDMI cable to connect The Boxee Box to your TV
- SPDIF – hi-definition digital audio that will pass through Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound and DTS to your A/V Receiver
- Stereo Audio (RCA) – red & white cables from the 80's, 90's and today
- 2 x USB ports – add devices like external hard drives and more
- Wireless 802.11n & Wired Ethernet – Cords if you got 'em, wireless if you don't
- RF Remote Control – control playback from anywhere
With over 2000 RSVPs and room for only 650, we'd have to say the event was poorly planned. This does not even begin to address the wisdom of throwing black t shirts into dark room or of showing porn. We are not making a judgment call about watching porn, we just don't think that it is appropriate for this setting. Funny that after the images of naked women were shown, it seemed like the focus in main floor conversation and tweets shifted from being about the product to objectifying women, including those that were there to present their Apps and were not associated in any way with the adult content.
It's a bit ridiculous for Boxee to assume that everyone at the event is a straight male interested in this sort of content in this setting. It is also unfortunate that the App with this content was given much more time on stage than other Apps, like Qurious and Trend Lines. Apparently if you want more stage time to talk about your work, Boxee wants you to be a sexy and naked female.
Boxee Beta will open to the public on January 7, 2010. The Boxee Box will sell for $200 and will be available in the second quarter of 2010.