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Boxee wants to be the Firefox of the connected media home, and it wants you to join its alpha testing this Monday. I caught up with Boxee founder and CEO Avner Ronen at the On Hollywood conference in L.A., where he gave me a sneak peek at the upcoming service.
Boxee is a free, open-source software platform that lets users control their media from a PC-connected TV. Like other media applications, you can watch movies or web video, listen to music, look at photos and more, all with your remote control. The platform also sports social features so you can make recommendations and share your media with friends.
The software only works on Mac and Linux at this point, with a Windows version due out later this year. Boxee began in earnest back in 2007 and is based on XBMC, an open-source project that turns Xbox game consoles into media centers. Based in New York, the company has 10 employees, has raised a seed round and is ramping up its search for funding.
Though Boxee is currently built for computers, the goal is to get it on any set-top or Internet-connected device plugged into your TV. The company wants to be the Switzerland of the connected media home. It’s talking with cable companies, networks, movie download companies — just about everyone in the content biz.
From the demo, Boxee’s interface looks clean and, using an Apple remote, easy to navigate. Scrolling through the options looks good and it’s easy to sift through all the content. Plus it can support 1080p HD.
Because the platform is open source, anyone will be able to write an application for it, so the eventual list of functions will only be limited by the imagination of Boxee’s community. This is in contrast to the cable companies’ tru2way, which is an open platform, but cable companies will ultimately decide which applications get to run on their boxes.
There are a few roadblocks in Boxee’s way. The software works with just about any video format — except DRM’d ones — so no accessing your iTunes library (at least your movies and TV shows). It has to get all those cable companies, networks, and movie download companies to sign on. And while installing an open-source application and connecting your PC to your TV might be easy-peasey for people who run Linux, the process will need to be greatly simplified for it to reach mass adoption.
But these are issues Ronen and his crew are aware of and working through. Right now, the company is looking for alpha testers who can connect a computer to a TV and have lots of media. The software launches Monday, and interested parties can sign up at Boxee.TV.