AppleTV has a rich history of getting hacked for the sake of adding extra utility. Contained within its small confines is a reasonably powerful computer that's capable of running Mac OS X (albeit slowly). The problem is that despite this power, the system software is tied to iTunes and its sister store for movies, music, and TV shows. This hinders it from competing with devices like mini-PCs and game machines that offer a huge variety of media playback, including DVDs and Blu-ray movies.
To help solve this, Boxee founder and CEO Avner Ronen has published instructions on how to get his company's media center software to run on the AppleTV. This system requires the use of developer Scott Davilla's ATVUSB-Creator, a Mac-only application that lets you create special programs that boot off a USB thumbdrive. The application comes with simple tools for putting SSH, Xbox Media Center for Mac, and its Boxee derivative on a drive with just a few clicks.
Once installed on the AppleTV, you can enjoy the same Boxee experience that's currently available on Macs and PCs running Linux. This includes being able to play Web video from multiple sources, and DivX- and Xvid-encoded content through your network--all without having to use any special transcoding software. You're also able to switch back to the Apple TV interface without having to make any massive changes to the way the system runs.
Within the next two months the software will be updated to play videos off of Hulu, meaning AppleTV owners who run the hack will be able to watch full-length TV shows (with ads) without having to purchase them from Apple's proprietary storefront. The company is also trying to get Netflix's freshly improved Watch Now streaming service running too.
Boxee is currently in private beta and limited to Mac and Linux users. We've been told that it's coming for PC users within the next month, with plans to open it up to everyone come next year's Consumer Electronics Show.