Boxee launched an iPhone (s AAPL) app for personal video sharing with a closed beta test Monday. The app, dubbed Cloudee, is available for free during the test period, but could eventually become Boxee’s first real revenue generator. The app focuses on the iPhone and iPod touch for now, but Boxee CEO Avner Ronen told me during a phone conversation a few days ago that tight integration with the company’s Boxee Box will follow soon. “We think it’s gonna be a core offering of what Boxee is,” he said.
With Cloudee, Boxee isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. Many cloud storage services already offer users private file sharing, and a new generation of media-centric cloud offerings has been popping up on tablets and connected devices in recent months. And then there are the numerous video sites, including YouTube, (s GOOG) that also offer some level of private clip sharing. However, Ronen told me that Cloudee’s focus on private sharing only sets it apart from other services out there. “YouTube, in people’s mind and in reality, is a very public place,” he said.
At the same time, New York-based Boxee makes it clear that it doesn’t want to become a second hard drive in the sky for each and every video you’ve ever shot. Cloudee’s Terms of Service expressively state that the service is “not a backup service,” and Ronen told me: “We are not trying to replace your Dropbox.”
So what does Cloudee want to offer people? iPhone video sharing is a first step, and users invited to the app’s private beta test get unlimited storage. Ronen said that Boxee wants offer have a premium level of the service once it’s ready to open the doors for everyone, which will likely also have little to no bandwidth and storage restrictions. The app will also offer video sharing via email and SMS, and support for additional devices, likely including the iPad and Android.
Integration with the Boxee Box will be rolled out even before the beta test is over, Ronen promised. Cloudee users will likely get to see their clips and videos shared with them in a separate tab on the home page, next to menu items like Movies and TV Shows.
Speaking of which: The last big addition to Boxee’s home screen happened when the company started to ship it’s Live TV tuner in January. Since then, there have been persistent rumors that Boxee might eventually launch a DVR service for Live TV users as well. These were only fueled by a survey the company sent out in February, asking Live TV owners how much they’d pay for the ability to record “300 hours of TV” programming.
Ronen declined to comment on any forthcoming DVR service, but the line of questioning in the February survey, suggesting a service-wide limit of the amount of recordable content, brings up an interesting possibility: What if Cloudee is Boxee’s DVR in disguise? It’s possible that the company is just testing the waters with personal video sharing, only to roll out a paid cloud DVR tier further down the road. Pulling off such a service would be a major undertaking – but if would definitely put Boxee, which has only seen modest sales of the Boxee Box, back on the map in a big way.