Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Boxee brings your content and the internet's to your TV (well, computer)

Image representing Boxee as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBaseVery few people that I know have Macs or run Ubuntu (Linux). Otherwise, I would have written about this program earlier.

Boxee is a great program that brings content from your computer and the internet to your computer. It's very easy to use, and though still in an alpha (read: very early) stage, it runs reliably with video quality as good as your sources. The major drawback is that it only runs on Apple or Linux machines (you can also hack it onto an AppleTV pretty easily). Frankly, this program has had me checking out how cheaply I could get a Mac Mini on eBay to plug into my TV (not cheaply enough, I might repurpose an old windows PC with linux, though a proper video card is expensive and might be tough to make work).  Currently, I'm using a DVI to HDMI cable from my Macbook Pro to get the video onto my TV--it works great. The Apple Remote works to easily browse through the interface to access the different content.  Also, you can pull in video RSS feeds, like the TED conference videos.

In addition to the typical mediacenter features, it has social aspects as well. You can set up friends (yes I have invites, just ask!) and recommend shows that you watch to friends with boxee or connect it to twitter to tell the world how much you loved $100 Baby.

Overall, the features of this product are great, assuming you already have hardware that can run it. For more on how to use Boxee check the links at the end of the post. Here's a video intro:

quick intro to boxee from boxee on Vimeo.

More importantly, it's part of the trend towards getting your tv to act as the on-demand device that was promised in that IBM commercial that I referenced when I first wrote about Hulu. This is an amazing trend and one that I have been looking forward to for years. Every major network has full length episodes online. The NCAA streamed March Madness games live online last year (though not in HD, which made it tough suboptimal when I plugged my computer into my TV via VGA). Meanwhile, nearly everyone has a horror story of dealing with the cable company that has a monopoly on providing your service. Maybe Boxee (along with all of the recent set top boxes being made) can be the beginning of a major change in the way we treat our cable infrastructure. This is a topic that I've been meaning to bang out a post about for a while. So, I'll stop here for now.

Boxee raised $4MM from some very respectable VCs in Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures Bijan Sabet from Spark Capital to join its board. So, next up for Boxee is to find revenues. I have a lot of ideas about how they could make it happen, which is the topic of another post that has been in the works for a while (and that I've been telling anyone who will listen, along with what the ideal mediacenter looks like). Not surprisingly, Fred is anti-hardware for Boxee the company (but loves the mac mini as a mediacenter), so that's out of the picture.

So, if you have a mac or run linux, let me know and I will happily send you an invite to Boxee!

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