Boxee Box, Beta Unveiled in Brooklyn

Boxee box
Boxee box

Media center software company Boxee gave a sneak peek of its new dedicated hardware device that it will be releasing at CES early next month, and unveiled the latest version of its beta software tonight  in Williamsburg.

At the Boxee Beta Unveiling event, the company showed off the first of what it believes to be many consumer electronics devices that will features its software as the front end for watching online video in the living room.

“By the end of 2010, we expect to be on many consumer electronics devices as the primary software,” said Zach Klein, vice president of product at Boxee. But for now, the new Boxee Box, which was previewed at the event, will be built by D-Link, and will be available during the second quarter of 2010.

Boxee box back view
Boxee box back view

D-Link will be the manufacturer, but the device was designed by Astro, the same company that designed the Xbox 360 hardware and some Alienware computers. The device, which is shaped like a submerged cube, is shorter than a coke can and will include WiFi, USB ports, an HDMI connection, and an SD card. The box will also have optical and RC video connections as backups, and will come with a remote. According to Klein, the box will be priced around $200.

On the software side, the new beta software is designed to simplify the user experience for end users. “We tried to make things simpler,” said Boxee CEO Avner. That included taking out the application menu, which was difficult to navigate, and putting content right in front of the user, as well as making it easier to find content that friends or other connections are watching on Boxee.

The company also added a box  for featured content, which is currently picked by Boxee employees. But, Ronen alluded to the possibility of featured content being paid for by content owners. “We’re not getting paid for this — yet,” Ronen told the audience. “This is just stuff that we think is cool.”

The new software breaks out content into “shows,” “movies” and “music,” making it easier for users to find content that they are looking for, rather than searching through individual applications from programmers. But the most important aspect of the beta software could be the ability to customize the user experience.

The new version of the software allows users to add video programming to a section called “My Shows”– which will queue up new episodes of certain programs when they become available. The Boxee Beta also allows users to add some of Boxee’s 350 applications to “My Applications” — or, if they really like an application, they can add a bookmark to that app.

While not as key to the user interface or exploration of the content, the company says it has improved the quality of video running over the beta software, moving from OpenGL to DXVA and Adobe (s ADBE) Flash 10.1. As a result, Ronen says the software will be able to run on lower-overhead computing devices.

In addition to new features, Boxee introduced new content partners and application makers on its platform.Boxee has about 350 apps on the platform, about half of which Ronen says were created not by Boxee, but by the company’s partners. At the Boxee Beta unveiling, Boxee announced Suicide Girls, Clicker, The Escapist, Qurious, and NYU’s ITP as new application partners.