The Boxee Box is finally shipping--and it's doing so with an updated user interface and some important new features.
The company held a launch party in Manhattan tonight, celebrating the availability of the long-awaited streaming media box and--finally--confirming the online content services that it will support. The two big ones: Netflix will be supported "by the end of the year," and Hulu Plus integration is also on deck. Those premium subscription apps will join Vudu's pay-per-view movie service, which had been announced previously, as well as MUBI, OpenFilm, IndieMoviesOnline, and EZTakes. Boxee also supports MLB TV, NHL GameCenter, Flickr, and Pandora--to name a few.
Other Boxee details that have been finally locked down:
- The Boxee Box will ship with a new, simplified user interface (pictured) that boils content down to six main buckets.
- In addition to the above-mentioned apps, Boxee will also support Vevo (music videos), VBS.TV (the video offshoot of Vice Magazine), and Accuweather.
- The Box now includes a full WebKit browser. (Our guess: expect most, if not all, of the mainstream video sites--CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, Hulu, and the like--to be blocked on Boxee, as they are on Google TV.)
- Boxee reaffirmed the product's support for full 1080p video and the ability to "eat codecs"--in other words, if you have a USB drive or networked storage with even the most obscure file formats, the Boxee Box should play it.
- Boxee supports HTML 5, so sites designed for a couch-based TV experience should work right in Boxee's browser.
How do these changes affect the Boxee equation? Rather positively, I'd say. Google TV's browser-based attack on streaming video has been a washout, thanks to key content providers blocking their sites from Google's hardware. By signing up app-based partners (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vevo, etc.), Boxee may be sacrificing its bad boy image, but it's also ensuring that the content people are buying the box for will actually be there when they turn it on. Yes, most of the good stuff now has to be paid for--but such is the price of legitimacy. (Don't worry, torrenters: The extensive codec support means that you'll still be able to watch all your ill-gotten gains on your big-screen TV.)
We'll have a full review of the Boxee Box as soon as we receive our review sample. In the meantime, what do you think: Are you willing to pay $199 for the newly enhanced Boxee Box, or will you be opting for Roku (soon to get its own Hulu Plus upgrade) or Apple TV (with an imminent AirPlay upgrade due)? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Source: Boxee blog