|Stable release||1.5 / 26 December 2011|
|Written in||C++ (and with Python scripts as plugins)|
|Platform||x86 and x86-64 architecture|
|Available in||International (multiple languages)|
|Type||Media Player / Home theater PC (limited)/ Digital media receiver|
|License||GNU GPL and Closed Source (Proprietary Software)|
Boxee (officially trademarked as BOXEE) is a cross-platform freeware HTPC (Home Theater PC) software application with a 10-foot user interface and social networking features designed for the living-room TV that enables its users to view, rate and recommend content to their friends through many social network services and interactive media related features. Boxee was originally a fork of the free and open source XBMC media center software which Boxee now uses as an application framework for its GUI and media player core platform, together with some custom and proprietary additions. Marketed as the first ever "Social Media Center", Boxee recently announced the ability to watch live TV on the Boxee Box with the introduction of the live TV stick. Avner Ronen released it to the market in January 2012.
The first public alpha of Boxee was made available on 16 June 2008. The Alpha prototype was designed in collaboration with design firm, Method, who also created Boxee's brand identity, which is still in use today. The first public beta version was officially released for all previously supported platforms on 7 January 2010. In 2012 the developers discontinued all desktop versions and support.
The developers of Boxee have stated that their goal is to have Boxee media center software run on as many third-party hardware platforms and operating systems as possible, and they have so far co-developed a dedicated set-top box (hardware) called "Boxee Box by D-Link" in cooperation with D-Link which was the first "Powered by Boxee" branded device to be announced and launched, and they have recently also announced a similar media player device called "Iomega TV with Boxee" in cooperation with Iomega and a 46" high-definition television from ViewSonic with integrated Boxee software. The company behind Boxee has also more than once said that they are very interested in licensing the Boxee media center software and its social networking service as a third-party software component to other companies and ODM/OEM's for use on their own hardware, such as set-top boxes from cable-TV companies, game-consoles, Blu-ray Disc and DVD players, or embedded computers and SoC (System-on-a-Chip) built into television sets for web-enabled Smart TVs, and other entertainment devices for the living room.
Boxee is owned and developed by a single for-profit startup company, (Boxee, Inc.), which began as a high tech stealth startup based in Israel and the United States with seed money from several angel investors. The company is today publicly known to be financially backed by venture capital firms such as General Catalyst Partners, Union Square Ventures, Softbank, Pitango, Spark Capital and Globis Capital Partners. The company's main offices are located at 122 West 26th Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10001Coordinates: .
Boxee supports a wide range of popularly used multimedia formats, and it includes features such as playlists, audio visualizations, slideshows, weather forecasts reporting, and an expanding array of third-party plugins. As a media center, Boxee can play most audio and video file containers, as well as display images from many sources, including CD/DVD-ROM drives, USB flash drives, the Internet, and local area network shares.
Through the processing power of modern PC hardware, Boxee is able to decode high-definition video up to 1080p. Boxee is able to use DXVA (DirectX Video Acceleration) on Windows Vista and newer Microsoft operating-systems to utilize GPU accelerated video decoding to assist with process of video decoding of high-definition videos.
With its Python-powered plugin system, the Boxee software incorporates features such as Apple movie trailer support and subtitle downloading, access to large on-demand video streaming services Netflix, Headweb and VUDU; a range of popular online internet content channels like audio services Pandora Radio, Last.fm, Jamendo, NPR, SHOUTcast radio streams; video services from ABC, BBC iPlayer, Blip.TV, CNET, CNN, CBS, Comedy Central, Funny or Die, Joost, Major League Baseball, NHL Hockey, MTV Music, MySpaceTV, Revision3, MUBI, OpenFilm, SnagFilms, IndieMoviesOnline, EZTakes, United Football League, VEVO, Vice Magazine, TED, The WB Television Network, YouTube and image services from Flickr and PicasaWeb picture viewing plugins. All are available as media sources available alongside the local library.
Some of the services are via specialized connections (e.g., YouTube), while the rest are a preselected list of podcast channels for streaming using generic RSS web feeds (e.g., BBC News). Boxee also supported NBC Universal's Hulu quite early on, but in February 2009 was asked by Hulu to remove the service at the request of Hulu's content partners. Boxee later reinstated the feature using Hulu's RSS feeds, but Hulu once again blocked access.
Even though both the Boxee App and the Boxee Box support Netflix, the Boxee App supports only a limited instant queue, missing more recent TV shows and movies available through the web browser and iPhone apps.
Another interesting aspect is how Boxee manages to play Adobe Flash content from sites such as YouTube and Hulu, and display HTML5 or Silverlight content from such web-based services such as HBO Go and Netflix. Boxee seems to be shipping with a closed source, binary-only, program called "bxflplayer", which seems to load Adobe Flash Player and Microsoft Silverlight proprietary plugins. This program communicates with the main Boxee process via shared memory and it renders the video onto screen. By using this approach, it is possible for Boxee not only to play Flash Video and Silverlight content that is protected by DRM (Digital Rights Management) but also allows for the user to control the player using a remote control and other input devices that are more suitable to laid back watching. Same as with the above mentioned "libboxee", it is not clear if this way of using "bxflplayer" as closed source libraries with a GPL licensed software passes as GPL linking exception or not.
Boxee also includes a built-in BitTorrent client, with a frontend for it integrated into the Boxee interface, and there are also Torrent links to legal BitTorrent trackers download sites available incorporated by default. Through Boxee's Python plugin system it is also possible for end-users to add unofficial third-party plugins to enable Torrent downloads from sites such as The Pirate Bay.
Boxee source code is otherwise in majority based on the XBMC Media Center project's source code which Boxee uses as its software framework, and the Boxee developers contribute changes to that part back upstream to the XBMC project. So Boxee is partially open source and those parts are distributed under the GNU General Public License, however Boxee's social networking layer library, "libboxee" is closed source as it deals with proprietary methods of communication with Boxee's online back-end server which handles the user account information and social network communications between the users in the Boxee userbase, it is not clear if this way of using closed source libraries with a GPL licensed software passes the GPL linking exception or not.
The social networking component of Boxee is its major differentiator from other media center software, in several ways, as follows.
Boxee requires registered user accounts, which form a social network of fellow Boxee users. Users can follow the activity of other Boxee users who were added as friends, and can publicly rate and recommend content. Users can also control what media appear in the activity feed in order to maintain privacy. If a user recommends something that is freely available from an internet content service then Boxee will let others users stream it directly. If a user recommends something that is not freely available then Boxee will try to show metadata, and movie trailers if it is a movie that the user recommend.
The user's friends' Boxee activity feeds are displayed on the user's home screen, as is the user's own recent activity. Internet content is accessed through a sub-menu of each of the video, audio, and photo menu items, such as Video -> "My videos" and Video -> "Internet videos".
In addition Boxee Beta and later has the option of monitoring your Twitter and Facebook news feeds to automatically discover links to videos, Boxee will then add those videos to your watch queue in Boxee so that you can later watch those video directly in Boxee when you want.
Boxee can also export a user's media activity feed to other social networking services such as FriendFeed, Twitter, and Tumblr. The list of connections to such supported third-party social networking services is currently small, and this feature is one-way only, (it is for example not yet possible to monitor Twitter feeds from within Boxee), but this type of third-party integration is different from the way content sources are treated. Through FriendFeed, Twitter, and Tumblr it is then possible from those third-party social networking services for a user to choose to post the Boxee activity feed to social networking sites such as Facebook, (currently through FriendFeed, Twitter, and Tumblr apps for Facebook).
Boxee's "AppBox" app store "App Store" which is a digital distribution service platform that serves add-on apps and plug-ins that provide online content to Boxee, the "AppBox" allows users to download new apps and addons directly from Boxee's GUI. Many of these sources are in high definition and use streaming sites' native flash and Silverlight players. Boxee has extensibility and integration with online sources for free and premium streaming content. AppBox offers content including commercial video, educational programming, and media from individuals and small businesses.
Boxee also encourages users to make and submit their own add-on apps and plug-ins to add additional content accessible from within Boxee.
Boxee can play multimedia files from CD/DVD media using the system's DVD-ROM drive, local hard disk drive, or stream them over SMB/SAMBA/CIFS shares (Windows File-Sharing, though this is not presently supported by Boxee TV), or eventually UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) shares (not available in v0.9.14). Boxee is designed to take advantage of the system's network port if a broadband Internet connection is available, using the IMDb to obtain metadata information, thumbnails, and reviews on movies, TV.com for TV show thumbnails and metadata, and album-cover Audio-CD track-listings and thumbnails via AMG. Boxee can stream Internet-video-streams, and play Internet-radio-stations (such as SHOUTcast). Boxee also includes the option to submit music usage statistics to Last.fm and a weather-forecast (via weather.com). It also has music/video-playlist features, picture/image-slideshow functions, an MP3+CDG karaoke function (not available on the Boxee Box) and many audio-visualizations and screensavers. Boxee can in addition upscale/upconvert all 480p/576p standard-resolution videos and output them to 720p, 1080i, or 1080p HDTV-resolutions.
Boxee can be used to play most common multimedia containers and formats from a local source, (except those protected by those with DRM encryption). It can decode these in software, or optionally pass-through AC3/DTS audio from movies directly to S/PDIF output to an external audio amplifier or receiver for decoding on that device.
The Video Library, one of the Boxee metadata databases, is a key feature of Boxee. It allows for the automatic organization of your video content by information associated with the video files (movies and recorded TV Shows) themselves. The Library Mode view in Boxee allows you to browse your video content by categories such as Genre, Title, Year, Actors and Director.
Boxee has the capability to on the fly parse and play DVD-Video movies that are stored in ISO and IMG DVD-images, DVD-Video movies that are stored as DVD-Video (IFO/VOB/BUP) files on a harddrive or network-share, and also ISO and IMG DVD-images directly from RAR and ZIP archives. It also offers software upscaling/upconverting of all DVD-Video movies when outputing them to a 720p, 1080i or 1080p HDTV resolutions.
The Music Library is one of the Boxee metadata databases and another key feature of Boxee. It automatically organizes your music collection by information stored in your music files ID meta tags, such as title, artist, album, genre and popularity.
Early builds of Boxee included a built-in BitTorrent client (not in the Windows version), with a frontend for it integrated into the Boxee interface, and there are also Torrent links to legal BitTorrent trackers download sites available incorporated by default. The built-in torrent client was later removed. Through Boxee's Python plugin system it was also possible for the end-users to make their own or add unofficial plugins made by third-party persons for other BitTorrent trackers.
The Boxee Remote (written"boxee remote") is an application released by Boxee Inc. for the Apple Inc. iOS which allows for remote controlling of an installed and concurrently-active Boxee session on another computer via the iOS' touchscreen user interface. It was approved for the App Store on 16 March 2010.
The developers of Boxee have stated that their goal is to have Boxee media center software run on as many third-party hardware platforms and operating systems as possible, and they are currently developing a dedicated set-top box (hardware) called "Boxee Box" in cooperation with D-Link which is the first "Powered by Boxee" branded device to be announced. The company behind Boxee has also more than once said that they are very interested in licensing the Boxee media center software and its social networking service as a third-party software component to other companies and ODM/OEM's for use on their own hardware, such as game-consoles, set-top boxes from cable-TV companies, Blu-ray Disc and DVD players, or embedded computers built into television sets, and other entertainment devices for the living room.
This is a list of third-party companies who sell hardware bundled with Boxee media center software pre-install, or sell uninstalled systems that specifically claim to be Boxee-compatible ("Boxee Enabled") by the manufacturer. These third-party companies directly or indirectly help submit bug fixes back upstream to Boxee, as well as to the XBMC project which Boxee in turn uses as its framework.
Boxee Box by D-Link (officially "D-Link Boxee Box DSM-380") is a Linux-based set-top device and media extender that first began shipping in 33 countries worldwide on 10 November 2010. Designed to easily bring internet television and other video to the television via Boxee's software, it comes pre-installed with Boxee media center software and the hardware is based on Intel CE4110 system-on-a-chip platform (that has a 1.2GHz Intel Atom CPU with a PowerVR SGX535 Integrated graphics processor), 1GB of RAM, and 1GB of NAND Flash Memory. The DSM-380 features output ports for HDMI (version 1.3), optical digital audio (S/PDIF) connector, and RCA connector for analog stereo audio, two USB ports, an SD card slot, wired 100Mbps (100BASE-T) ethernet, and built-in 802.11n WiFi.
The Boxee Box also ships with a small two-sided RF remote control with 4-way D-pad navigation and a full QWERTY keypad as standard, and this remote is also being sold separately with a USB-receiver as "D-Link Boxee Box Remote DSM-22" that one can use with Boxee installed on a computer so that one can use this remote without owning D-Link's Boxee Box The look of both the case and remote prototypes for the Boxee Box was designed by San Francisco based Astro Studios, which is the same designer company that designed the look of Xbox 360 and the Microsoft Zune.
Iomega TV with Boxee by Iomega was announced by Boxee on 4 January 2011, this was the second Boxee device to be announced, and it was said that it will begin shipping in Q1 of 2011. Just like the Boxee Box by D-Link, the Iomega TV with Boxee is a Linux device that comes pre-installed with Boxee media center software and the hardware is based on Intel CE4110 system-on-a-chip platform (that has a 1.2Ghz Intel Atom CPU with a PowerVR SGX535 Integrated graphics processor), 1GB of RAM, and 1GB of NAND Flash Memory. Iomega TV with Boxee features audio / video output ports for HDMI (version 1.3), optical and coaxial digital audio (S/PDIF) connectors, and RCA connector for analog stereo audio, two USB ports, wired 1Gbps ethernet, and built-in 802.11n WiFi. Like the D-Link's Boxee Box the Iomega TV with Boxee also ships with a similar small two-sided RF remote control with 4-way D-pad navigation and full a QWERTY keypad as standard.
However, unlike D-Link's Boxee Box, the Iomega TV with Boxee device will feature space to internally fit a 3.5" SATA harddrive. That harddrive will be not only usable to the Boxee software on the device but also usable as a NAS (Network Attached Storage) unit to share its media data over the network as a DLNA compliant UPnP AV media server.
Myka ION is an Nvidia Ion based set-top device designed to bring internet television and media stored on the home network to the living-room, it comes pre-installed with Boxee, XBMC, and Hulu Desktop as applications that can be started from the main menu.
NUU Player by NUU Media (NUU Ltd.) was an Nvidia Ion based set-top device designed to bring internet television and media stored on the home network to the living-room, it came pre-installed with Boxee, Hulu Desktop, and a WebKit web-browser as applications that could be started from the main menu with a remote control. It also has Skype app and Bluetooth support. Nuu has since discontinued NUU Player development and has removed any mention of it from their web site.
As a partially open source application and freeware software program, Boxee is developed by a commercial start-up company with the goal of someday profiting from Boxee and their social networking service, working as a distribution application framework for both major pay-per-view and independent video on demand providers.
Boxee, like XBMC Media Center (which Boxee is based upon), is a cross-platform software programmed mostly in C++ and uses the Simple DirectMedia Layer framework with OpenGL renderer for all versions of Boxee. Some of the libraries that Boxee depends on are also written in the C programming-language, but are used with a C++ wrapper and loaded via Boxee's own DLL loader when used inside Boxee.
Boxee features a Python Scripts Engine and WindowXML application framework (a XML-based widget toolkit for creating a GUI for widgets) in a similar fashion to Apple Mac OS X Dashboard Widgets and Microsoft Gadgets in Windows Sidebar. Python widget scripts allow non-developers to themselves create new add-ons functionality to Boxee, (using the easier to learn Python programming language), without knowledge of the complex C/C++ programming language that the rest of the Boxee software is written in. Current plugin scripts add-ons include functions like Internet-TV and movie-trailer browsers, cinema guides, Internet-radio-station browsers (example SHOUTcast), and much more.
Boxee recently also introduced an additional plugin architecture based on the XUL (XULRunner) framework which enables any web-based application to be integrated into Boxee as an app add-on. With this new plugin architecture Boxee uses Mozilla corebase architecture for those plugins. Since this is the same core architecture that Firefox uses, Hulu will see Boxee as any other Mozilla-based web-browser.
Boxee GUI source code is based on XBMC Media Center which is noted for having a very flexible GUI toolkit and robust framework for its GUI, using a standard XML base, making theme-skinning and personal customization very accessible. Users can create their own skin (or simply modify an existing skin) and share it with others via public websites dedicated for XBMC skins trading.
This is a list of current software limitations in the Boxee code, (Boxee's base source code is based on XBMC Media Center software source code so Boxee has many of the same software limitations as XBMC).
In October 2008, Boxee won Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) i-Stage award, and with it $50,000 prize money to go towards the continued development of Boxee, as well as a free booth at the 2009 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show), the world's largest consumer technology trade show. Boxee then in turn donated half of the $50,000 prize money to the developers of XBMC.
On 9 January 2009, G4 announced Boxee as the winner of their "Best of the Best products of CES 2009" award (in the "Maximum Tech" category) among all the products displayed at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2009 trade show.
In January 2010, during the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2010 trade show, Boxee also managed to get five awards; "LAPTOP's Best of CES 2010 – Best Home Entertainment (Boxee Box)", "Last Gadget Standing – CES 2010 Winner", "International CES Best Of Innovations 210 – Home Theater Accessories", "Popular Science – Best of CES 2010 (Products of the Future)".
On 31 October 2012 Boxee posted a statement on their website that they had to make a decision between releasing a box that was hackable and one that was commercially viable with premium content.
As it stated, Boxee would have loved for the Boxee Box to be open to other software, but in the end they were bound by agreements with their content providers to ensure the security of the content. This started postings of very negative comments from Boxee Box users on the Boxee blog as the previous Boxee promises had been totally different.
After less than a day, the entire Boxee page (along with the statement, the blog and its comments) was removed and replaced with a new Boxee TV website. Fortunately the old Boxee blog was not deleted but moved.
||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
For most popular video and audio codecs, Boxee includes native support through free and open source software libraries, such as LAME, libmpeg2, and libavcodec (from the FFmpeg project). Since these source code libraries are released under free and open source licenses they are legally redistributable. However, some of these compression methods algorithms, such as the popular MP3 format, are in many countries protected by software patents. Absent a license,[verification needed] this could possibly make it illegal in certain[which?] countries to distribute compiled versions of Boxee which includes support for these formats.
Boxee uses libdvdcss to support playback of DVD-Video movies encrypted using the Content Scramble System (CSS) encryption. The distribution of executable versions of Boxee containing this code could possibly violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the U.S. and the Copyright Directive in European Union member countries which have incorporated it into national law. However, this has never been tested in court for open source projects.
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