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Upcoming Boxee Beta Puts TV Content Front and Center

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Boxee CEO Avner Ronen stopped by our NewTeeVee Live conference last week to officially announce the first Boxee-branded hardware, a set-top box that will be available sometime next year. I interviewed Ronen after his keynote, and he gave me a few more details about both the box itself and the upcoming beta of Boxee’s software, which will be officially unveiled at an event in New York on Dec. 7th.

The upcoming beta is going to be much more media-centric and less application-focused than the current alpha version, which Ronen told me is largely to make it easier to find movies and TV content. Users will no longer have to remember who’s supplying Boxee with what kind of content, but will simply be able to browse a list of shows or search for specific titles.

Boxee’s current alpha version is really more of an app platform than a media center application on its own. Content from partners and third-party services like YouTube, CBS (S cbs) or Netflix (s nflx) is integrated through applications that can be combined to a kind of personal media buffet. However, users still have to dive into each application separately to find a particular video they’d want to watch, which is kind of a laborious experience if you don’t know whether the TV show you’re after is available on Netflix, Joost or through the Warner Bros. (s TWX) app.

The upcoming beta will change this by integrating all TV and movie content into a systemwide index that can be searched and used to program your queue. This new content repository will include your local library, so any shows you’ve downloaded via BitTorrent will appear right next to streaming versions available online. “We thought it’s very important, since we are bringing in more and more sources, that we make it easy for users to find stuff,” Ronen told me.

However, don’t expect Boxee to index each and every video on YouTube. It will focus squarely on professional, long-form content. “People on Boxee (spend) most of their time on TV shows and movies,” Ronen told me. To be precise, the average Boxee user watches six or seven TV show episodes a week, three movies and around eight clips from YouTube (s GOOG), Vimeo and similar sources.

When it came to the Boxee box, however, Ronen was a little more tight-lipped. The company hasn’t revealed the name of the CE maker that’s going to build this first device, but it has already hinted at further cooperations with other companies down the line, with the goal of bringing Boxee to a whole range of devices. So how much will you pay for the first incarnation of the Boxee box? That’s up to the CE partner, Ronen told me. He doesn’t think anyone could build and sell a Boxee device for less than $100 because the resource needs of the software, but added: “We definitely want to be under $200 if we can.”

Check out the full interview embedded above.

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