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from the L.A. Times

Boxee unveils Web TV box and revamped software in bid to take over the living room [Updated]

Boxee-1
Boxee unveiled plans at an event in New York tonight for the next generation of its Web TV software and the first steps of a strategy for invading the set-top box arena.

Details of what's being called the Boxee Box are still trickling out of the sold-out Beta Unveiling event at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, which has taken 1,880 RSVPs. We'll update the post as we learn more.

Boxee Chief Executive Avner Ronen gave The Times a brief rundown last week on the company's plans for infiltrating the hardware business as well as a preview of the beta version of the Boxee software, which will be available to a limited number of testers this month and to everyone in January.

Contrary to initial speculation, there is no official Boxee Box. The new device is being developed in partnership with a third party, and Boxee expects to strike several more of those deals with other manufacturers next year. Boxee doesn't charge hardware makers to install the software on its devices.

Ronen had his ideal specification list for the first set-top box to ship with Boxee -- 1080P high-def support, an HDMI TV connection and a price tag of less than $200.

Boxee-box [Updated, 5:45 p.m.: D-Link has signed on as the maker of the first Boxee Box.

It's a little black cube designed by the same company that thought up the Xbox 360. The box sports two USB ports, wired and wireless Internet connectivity, an optical digital audio port and, as we described earlier, an HDMI port.

The device seems to lack any significant internal storage. D-Link places an emphasis on streaming but offers storage via an SD memory card.

The Boxee Box will be available in the second quarter of next year for about $200. We're disappointed that D-Link missed the obvious name -- Box-D. The device will be on display at CES.

"Boxee's not a hardware company," said Boxee Chief Product Officer Zach Klein. "It's a software company."]

The first box will ship with the then-latest version of the media center software. Based on the demo we saw of the Boxee beta, it's finally poised to take over the living room.

Click the "continue reading" button for a breakdown of some of the coolest new features in the beta, which you'll soon be able to install on Apple TVs or Mac Minis.

New interface: Somebody hired a new designer, and man, does this thing look good. Gone is the alpha version's amateurish green-and-black design in favor of a sleek, Apple-like interface.

Boxee-2 Emphasis on content, not apps: With the new design comes a core rethinking. Before, TV shows were separated by networks and apps, such as Comedy Central, Hulu and Clicker.

You can still access content from those channels -- and set them as favorites in the beta's new quick switcher -- but now, you browse by shows, movies, songs and artists, not the channels where they live. It's a small conceptual change with profound effects on how you watch.

Recommendations: The feature that lets other friends using Boxee suggest what to watch has been fairly underutilized -- because your friends probably aren't using Boxee. In the beta, there are numerous other sources you can look to for streamlined recommendations, including Facebook and Twitter.

Queue: We love this. Another conceptual problem that plagued Boxee was that you had to fiddle with the remote after every show, movie or album. This new feature lets you create a playlist of things you'd like to watch, which will continually roll.

Even cooler is a bookmarklet that works with any browser. With this small wonder of Javascript, you can add most videos you stumble across on the Web -- YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu -- to your Boxee queue from any computer. Too busy to watch the clip your coworker e-mailed to you? Add it to your queue to watch on TV when you get home.

Search: Being able to call up a keyboard and hammer out a search is a nice option, but it's not a go-to if you're sitting on a couch with a five-button remote.

-- Mark Milian
twitter.com/markmilian

Photo credits: Boxee

 
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