The Boxee Box, a cross-platform freeware media center software from Boxee build by Tawianeese communications company D-Link, was announced to a sold out audience at a media event in Brooklyn on Monday, along with Boxee Beta, the redesigned "Social Media Center" that enables its users to view, rate and recommend content to their friends through interactive social networking features, including support for Twitter and Facebook.
At the press event the company said it plans to have the set-top box available for around $200 early next year. For now, the Boxee platform runs on a computer or to a connected HDTV and allows users to access movies, TV shows, music and photos as well as streaming content from websites like Netflix, MLB.TV, Comedy Central, Pandora, Last.fm, and flickr. Boxee is supported by a variety of computer platforms, including Mac OS X, Linux Ubuntu, Windows XP, Vista and 7 as well as Apple TV, thanks to a third party developer. Boxee has received two rounds of funding totaling $10 million.
"We plan to open up the Beta to the public on Jan 7th at CES," wrote company CEO and co-founder Ayner Ronen on the Boxee blog. "Over the next four weeks we will gradually release invitations to our early access users and then to existing alpha users. We hope your testing will help us identify any major issues and resolve them by the time of our public release.
Ronen explained how the service has been redesigned and updated, including re-formatting the home screen, and reorganizing the menu, recommendations and content arrangement. "We overhauled Movies and TV shows to include both Internet and local content; If you know what it is you want to watch, we'll show you where you can find it and start playing it immediately - no need to go through an App," he explains, though he noted the platform has improve the ability for users to find and test new applications. "Clicking on App will let you choose whether you'd like to run it, add it to My Apps (the list of your favorite apps) or add it as a Shortcut. We also made it easier to add and browse 3rd party App repositories."
As a media center, Boxee can play most audio and video file formats, as well as display images from many sources, including CD/DVD-ROM drives, USB flash drives, the Internet, and local area network shares. The service is also able to decode high-definition video up to 1080p and includes a built in BitTorrent client. The service offers several layers of social networking, based around required registered user accounts. Users can follow the activity of other Boxee users who were added as friends, and can publicly rate and recommend content. Users can also control what media appear in the activity feed in order to maintain privacy.