After a harrowing two-week wait, I was recently approved to try the alpha version of a new open source media center and social networking app called Boxee.
If you’re like me and use the Internet to consume most of what we used to call “TV”, but wish there was a single user interface from which to watch it all (rather than watching some stuff in iTunes/Front Row and then surfing over to Hulu, Joost and Netflix for other stuff), Boxee is precisely what you’ve been waiting for.
I wrote a few months ago about how when I bought a 42″ HDTV earlier this year, I never even considered subscribing to cable, but instead opted for a $10 VGA cable (and DVI adapter) to hook my Macbook directly up to the TV. One commenter, who agreed in concept, nonetheless was forced to pay top dollar for cable, “because no one has developed a good enough ‘10-foot’ interface for online video.”
Well, it may be only be in alpha (as in, not yet beta software), but such an interface is now available.
Boxee is a desktop application much like Windows Media Center or Apple’s Front Row, but without all the constraints on content that one expects to find in software released by Microsoft of Apple. Indeed, Boxee is a free, open source app that plays any media (photos, music, video, etc.) stored locally on your computer, allows you to subscribe to any video feed available via RSS (essentially, video podcasts and video blogs) and aggregates content from other Web media services like Flickr, Netflix, Last.fm, CBS, YouTube and Hulu.com.
There’s also a social media component, which shows you what your friends are watching and listening to, makes recommendations and, if you want, posts your recently viewed media to Facebook and Twitter.
Boxee works with the Apple Remote (or any other PC compatible remote control) so you can sit back on the couch and be all lazy about it. There are currently versions of Boxee available for Mac, Linux, and Apple TV, with a version for Windows on the way.
The only downsides are the few, relatively minor, glitches and crashes that come along with testing out alpha-version software. I have to imagine that once Boxee reaches beta status and then ultimately leaves beta, it will be considerably more stable. .
Also, not all RSS video feeds are compatible, but most of mine worked fine. Some Feedburner-based feeds or feed URL’s that otherwise redirect to the actual XML file may have trouble being read by Boxee. Other than that, it’s a great way to watch all your online video and multimedia content from one place.
To get in line for the alpha version, go sign up at boxee.tv.