Boxee Goes Beta, Goes Set-Top with Boxee Box

Upstart Internet media center developer Boxee has come out with a one-two punch, first announcing a new beta version of its media-center software with a whole new interface and significant under-the-hood technical changes, plus a partnership with D-Link to produce the Boxee Box, a set-top device with embedded Boxee software that will bring Boxee content from the home and the Internet to user’s televisions.

Boxee Box

Boxee is an Internet-centric media center solution, tapping into both music and video from online sources like Netflix, Pandora, MLB.TV, and other providers—and Boxee has garnered a lot of fans amongst the do-it-yourself community of entertainment users who don’t want to be limited to what cable or satellite providers make available. The new Beta version of Boxee features a revamped, more consumer-friendly interface that makes it easier for users to navigate their libraries and locate their favorite content, including recommendations from friends (via Facebook or Twitter) as well as Boxee and its partners. The new interface treats local and Internet-based content almost identically: users will no longer have to launch separate source-specific applications to tap into online content. Boxee also organized television shows by season and episode by default, and does a better job of showing immediately what content is free and which carries a fee.

Boxee Interface

Under the hood, Boxee also transitioned the software’s graphics from OpenGL to DirectX under Windows, meaning a number of inexpensive PCs can now handle 1080p content with little difficulty.

The Boxee beta will go public on January 7th at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas; until then, users will just have to wait un eager anticipation.

Another thing Boxee fans can anticipate is the Boxee Box: Boxee has announced a partnership with Taiwan’s D-Link to put its software in a set-top box users can connect directly to their TV and home Internet connection. The Boxee Box will feature Ethernet connectivity, HDMI video output, S/PDIF and composition audio output; the unit will also be camera- and camcorder friendly with an SD card slot and two USB ports. The idea is that the Boxee Box will make it easy for consumers combine both Internet-based music and video with video and media already accessible on their home network, and bring it to the TV with a minimum of fuss. The companies expect the Boxee Box to reach market in about the second quarter of 2010, with an estimated price tag around $200. Whether the Boxee Box will succeed in a market where devices like the Roku set-top box and Apple TV have failed to ignite consumer interest remains to be seen…but Boxee does already have the advantage of some momentum behind its media center software.

Boxee Box (front)