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Digital Content: Where is Boxee Today?

A rising star in content aggregation, Boxee is set to offer hardware, TV show "subscription" services, and universal search functionality that seeks content on the home network and in the cloud.


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Learn more about streaming media at EHX Spring 2010, Orlando, Fla. Digital Media is one of 6 key focus areas of the New Opportunities Show.

Last year, the Consumer Electronics Association created a contest for technology startups called i-stage.

The winner was an unknown called Boxee, a content aggregator so comprehensive that Hulu was a mere subset of its offerings (until Hulu pulled the plug).

Boxee was perhaps the first company to combine IP-based video from Hulu, CBS, Joost, Netflix, YouTube and scores of other content providers in a single user interface. On top of that is a social networking element so users can recommend shows to their friends.

If 2009 was a momentum-building year for Boxee, then the new year promises to be a technology-building year for the company. Here's what's on tap:

Universal Search


The problem with aggregating so much content is that it's hard to develop a universal search function that will mine the metadata from the respective providers.

Hulu does a nice job of it, but Boxee aggregates far more content.

In the new Boxee Beta, the search function is there. Enter "CSI," for example, and Boxee will list the relevant episodes, regardless of where they live on the network or in the cloud.

It's not entirely comprehensive just yet, but it's a start.

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"We looked to CBS.com, Netflix, the WC, Hulu and a couple of other sources – essentially figuring out what's available on all of the mainstream sites – and then we added Netflix," says marketing VP Andrew Kippen. "Hopefully we'll add others."

Currently, the new Boxee version searches only for full TV episodes and full movies in order to narrow the search; however, the service does incorporate a Clicker.com app "that replicates a lot of their functionality, like keyword search, actor, and director."

Clicker is yet another content aggregation site that ranks right up there with Hulu – it's a good thing because Hulu doesn't like Boxee -- and even incorporates Netflix.

Neither Hulu nor Clicker incorporates content that is on the home network.

Additional Boxee Features


In addition to the search feature, Boxee is offering some other compelling features to the new version:
  • Queue: Users can add shows to their queues and watch them later.
  • Bookmarklet: If you stumble across some interesting online content outside of the Boxee environment, you can still add it to your queue.
  • My TV: Subscribe to TV shows, and Boxee automatically adds new episodes to your queue

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D-Link: First Boxee Hardware


Since its launch, Boxee has been relegated to PCs and Macs. It has not been incorporated into CE devices and does not have a dedicated streaming device, a la Roku.

That will change in 2010 as Boxee brings on D-Link as its first hardware partner.

The Boxee Box by D-Link is a WiFi-enabled cube with an SD slot and Boxee built in. It is expected to retail for about $200, about double the price of similar products from Roku and several manufacturers of streaming Blu-ray players.

Boxee wanted a hand in the first product to bear its brand, but the company didn't want to go it alone, as Vudu did, for example.

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"We wanted to provide a box that was inexpensive for consumers but came under the backing of a very strong brand," Kippen says. "D-Link was the first hardware choice because of their great distribution. They are a leading network distributor worldwide with an expertise in the home and small business market."





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Article Topics

News · Product News · Video · Digital Media · Networking · Streaming Media · Boxee · Digital Content · Clicker · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

20 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Jason Knott  on  12/28  at  12:39 PM

I see the Boxee screen capture shows the movie “Ghost in a Teeny Bikini.” Any service that includes that flick in its library must be very thorough.

Posted by Picky Picky  on  12/28  at  01:16 PM

So, I’m looking at the picture of this little device and thinking that there’s an industrial designer somewhere that needs to go back to school. Yes, I like when products look cool. But, when that form destroys function (like being able to put anythign on top of the box…or integrating it in a rack easily…or not taking up significantly more vertical space than in needed…or requiring too much packaging) it’s silly.

Does anyone think that this physical design makes more sense than a simple, clean box?

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  12/28  at  01:20 PM

Picky, I could not agree more! How much money went to pay industrial designers for this nuisance? How will it fit, physically, with my media furniture and other black boxes?

I’d like to see Mid Atlantic make a rack face for this one!

Posted by cm  on  12/28  at  02:02 PM

Interesting that the first likeness I’ve seen to Crestron’s WorldSearch is coming from the other end of the market.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  12/28  at  02:49 PM

Actually, virtually all the mass CE marketers are developing and/or implementing similar solutions.

Crestron’s ADMS with World Search is still one of the best I’ve seen, most notably because it aggregates content from online, the home network, and connected Blu-ray changer.

Also, it caches the metadata on the server so search results are almost instantaneous. It’s not searching the Web every time you enter a term.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t include NEtflix, but it does use Amazon.

There are several other features that Boxee and other services are implementing that are pretty worthwhile:

- TV watch list (adds new episodes to your queue)_
- Social networking (share your faves with friends)

What is your experience with any of these services? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Integrators should be the content pros. That’s what consumers want.

All of this will be sorted out in the digital content track at EHX spring.

Posted by cm  on  12/28  at  03:12 PM

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Integrators should be the content pros.”

Couldn’t agree more, but could use some help - CEPro is my main news source I don’t recall seeing coverage on all those other devices with similar functionality in/coming to market!

(I just slightly, as I could hav missed something and besides understand that CEPro can’t cover everything.  Still… wink

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  12/28  at  03:47 PM

CM, you called me on it. We’ve done a bunch of stories on the subject, but haven’t done a face-off among the products and services. Researched it extensively at CEDIA and promise to have a better grasp after CES.

Posted by cm  on  12/28  at  03:58 PM

Fantastic, looking greatly forward!

Posted by cm  on  12/28  at  04:57 PM

Hmm, while you’re in a holiday gift giving mood, any chance you could do a piece where automation vendors put their best foot forward with solutions and pricing against specific reference requirements (i.e. mid-size house with 8 zones audio, 30 lighting loads, 3 hvac zones?)  I know this is rife with challenges to produce an apples to apples comparison, but, boy, I bet many would find it useful.

Posted by David  on  12/28  at  07:17 PM

That hardware box the most idiotic fricken design I have ever seen in my life.

Posted by Matt  on  12/29  at  02:23 PM

I like the possibilities of Boxee running on a cheap linux or windows embedded device (that IS stackable or rackable) with an IR port in the back and posted IR codes - especially discrete ON/OFF commands.

Working with Crestron and some other control systems we can use the ethernet communications rather than IR, so having discrete commands for “MOVIES”, “MUSIC”, “PHOTOS” would be great in the protocol/module or IR command list.

Pair this up with one of the cool new palm sized wireless keyboard/mouse devices (like the logitech DiNovo mini or the EFO HTPC remote and your set.

-Matt
http://www.controllercodes.com

Posted by Tom  on  12/30  at  08:46 PM

The design of the box is idiotic beyond belief. DOA for most integrators till they come up with a normal rack mountable device.

We have built an open source Crestron module to control the boxee. It has support for directly opening any of the screens like “My Photos”, “My Apps”, etc. Plus it can directly open the Pandora, Netflix, etc window. Feel free to contribute here:

http://code.google.com/p/crestron-boxee/

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  12/30  at  11:51 PM

Tom ... please drop me a line. I’d love to learn more. jjacobson at ehpub dot com

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  01/01  at  11:04 PM

What are the dimensions? Would it fit on a MA media shelf?

Posted by Good Troll  on  01/01  at  11:23 PM

Re the design of the boxee. Its shape was intentional so that it could not be stacked or mounted.  It is a submerged cube.  It is meant to represent the systhesis (or morphing) of all boxes below boxee into boxee.  There will be “just one” box ee (get it…)

It’s running a great OS (as mentioned alreadY)

It has a bunch of really good algorithms (for @39 cent stamp, no that is not an interesting name for a bit map, it’s code.  Not UI stuff, but real code that does real work and provides real value)

It is an open platform that “real” programmers will adopt and leverage in mass…

It will be extended to do/be all things CE/Computuing/Other

It will be aquired by Google and that will be the google footprint into home server market (with the android and chrome as mobile and desktop clients)

It will be the rage of CES and will make other black boxes look stupid

It will seriously challenge and/all content aggregators on the market for just $300

It validates the cloud approach/ASP approach for content Mgmt and control

It will fly right over the heads of 99% of CI’s (rack mentality - like old mainframe guys)

It will be remotely managed both in/out of band

It will eventually take over your PC (ala X11 - don’t even ask @39 Cent stamp, i don’t have the energy to explain what it does for u)

It will eventually take over your game console

It will pull great high Def content from the ether or from a NAS/Storage.

It will be the Borg (he he… boxee… like the borb cube) of CE, HA and Media Services

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