So What The Heck is Boxee, Anyway?

If you want to get started and you have an Apple TV, download the Macintosh software and store it on a USB flash drive. Plug that drive into the back of your Apple TV and reboot the machine. When it starts up, you’ll see a new option for Boxee. The existing Apple TV interface is still there, so nothing is lost. iPhone users have been delighted with the recently released Boxee remote app, which is free to download from the iTunes Store.

Once you’re set up, you can access all of your media through your TV, and stream a variety of outside content. Connect to friends through Boxee to make your viewing social.

"You can discover new content by seeing what your friends are watching and listening to," says Ronen.

The Hulu Hassle
Boxee doesn’t provide online content, but connects to existing content. The site’s name was suddenly in the news when one provider, Hulu, decided to stop access to its shows, as it also did for TV.com.

"Hulu has been one of the most requested features from our users since the closed alpha," says Ronen. While Boxee never partnered with Hulu, it streamed Hulu content, which Ronen thinks Hulu execs were aware of. "I think some of them were users, as well," he says.

Boxee began offering Hulu content in October 2008, and after 100,000 streams and more than 4 months, Hulu requested that it stop. Boxee complied but soon began streaming from Hulu’s RSS feeds, which Hulu has worked to block.

"We’ve not had a dialogue with Hulu since the discussions broke up," says Ronen.

Going Strong in 2009
With its enthusiastic, growing user base, Boxee is looking at significant growth in 2009. The Linux and Macintosh versions should reach beta by Q3, when new features will be introduced. For Windows users curious what the excitement is all about, the Windows version will soon move into open alpha.

"I hope that it’s a matter of weeks rather than months," says Ronen.

While Windows users won't have the same methods of connecting devices to their televisions as Mac users do, Ronen hopes Boxee will spur many of them to connect their computers to their TV sets for the first time.

Ronen also hopes to entice content providers to embrace Boxee. APIs let content owners create custom branded spaces for their shows, he says. Boxee will do most of the work of setting up spaces if media owners will provide the content. While Ronen doesn’t plan to charge content owners, he’s hoping that affiliate fees or revenue sharing agreements will bring in revenue if the site takes off.

"I don’t know if we’ll get there by the end of the year," Ronen says. "I hope we will"

Beyond that, Ronen is focused on delivering user requests. HD video is a big demand, he says, as is delivering more premium content. At the moment, the site has a user base of 350,000 "alpha geeks." Ronen hopes to grow that to a million by year’s end.

"There are many companies in the space, a lot of options in term of buying boxes to put in your living room," Ronan says. "The way we’re different than the others is that we put the user first above all. As long as we can offer the user a better solution and a legal solution, then we can find our niche."

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