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|June 16, 2008; 9 years ago (2008-06-16)|
1.5 / 26 December 2011; 6 years ago (2011-12-26)
|C++ (and with Python scripts as plugins)|
|x86 and x86-64 architecture|
|International (multiple languages)|
|Media Player / Home theater PC (limited)/ Digital media receiver|
|GNU GPL and Closed Source (Proprietary Software)|
Boxee was 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 (now Kodi) media center software which Boxee used 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", the first public alpha of Boxee was made available on 16 June 2008. The UI design of the Alpha prototype was designed with design firm Method Incorporated, who also created Boxee's brand identity. The first public beta version was officially released for all previously supported platforms on 7 January 2010. Boxee gained the ability to watch live TV on the Boxee Box using a live TV stick in January 2012. By the end of 2012 the developers had discontinued all desktop versions and support.
Boxee 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, as well as a similar media player device called "Iomega TV with Boxee" (available in the UK & Europe) in cooperation with Iomega and a 46" high-definition television from ViewSonic with integrated Boxee software.
Boxee was 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, & was then 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: 40°44′42″N 73°59′33″W / 40.745062°N 73.992611°W / 40.745062; -73.992611.
On Wednesday, July 3, 2013 online media sources revealed Samsung would hire key employees and purchase Boxee's assets for around $30M. Samsung confirmed the acquisition with The New York Times, but did not disclose the amount.
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 source code is otherwise in majority based on the XBMC (now Kodi) 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.
Social Networking Layers
The social networking component of Boxee is the differentiator from other media center software.
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 Twitter and Facebook news feeds to automatically discover links to videos, Boxee will then add those videos to a watch queue in Boxee so they can be later viewed.
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 AppBox Add-on Store and plugin Apps (widgets/gadgets)
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.
Audio/video playback and handling
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 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 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.
Video playback in detail
The Video Library, one of the Boxee metadata databases, is a key feature of Boxee. It allows for the automatic organization of a users' video content by information associated with the video files (movies and recorded TV Shows) themselves.
The Library Mode view in Boxee allows a user to browse 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 hard-drive 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 outputting them to an HDTV in 720p, 1080i or 1080p.
Audio playback in detail
The Music Library is another key feature of Boxee. It automatically organizes the user's music collection by information stored in the music files ID meta tags, such as title, artist, album, genre and popularity.
Digital picture/image display in detail
BitTorrent client, interface, and torrent trackers
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.
Mobile software associated with Boxee
The "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.
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
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 act as a hub, to 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 1.2 GHz 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" which can be used with Boxee installed on a computer so 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
Iomega TV with Boxee by Iomega was announced by Boxee on 4 January 2011, this was the second Boxee device to be announced It began shipping in Q1 of 2011.
The Iomega TV with Boxee is a Linux device which comes pre-installed with Boxee media center software. 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.
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 features space to internally fit a 3.5" SATA hard drive. According to Boxee, the hard drive is not only for 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.
Programming and developing
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.
Add-on apps (widgets/gadgets) and Python scripts as plugins
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.
Skins, skinning, and the skinning-engine
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.
Limitations and known issues
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).
- Boxee Box does not support Flash Player 11 - many sites stream media content using Flash Player 11 (e.g., Comedy Central); Boxee plans to support this in the future.
- Boxee currently cannot play any audio/music files protected/encrypted with Digital rights management (DRM), such as music purchased from the iTunes Store, MSN Music, or Audible.com before DRM restrictions are lifted.
- Boxee is currently available for x86-based platforms, and a x86-64 version is available for Windows. Boxee is not yet available for ARM, PowerPC, or MIPS instruction set architectures.
- Boxee requires a DirectX 9.0 or OpenGL 1.4 with GLSL (or newer) hardware accelerated graphics GPU and matching device drivers.
- Boxee provides online sources for TV shows missing from the user's local storage. However, online sources may use different season & episode numbering schemes (e.g., anime), resulting in Boxee's providing incorrect TV episode enumeration. Boxee does not allow its users to disable online sources and as of November 2010 did not plan to offer a solution for this issue.
In October 2008, Boxee won Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) i-Stage award, and with it $50,000 prize for the continued development of Boxee, as well as a free booth for the 2009 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show). Boxee 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) amongst all the products displayed at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2009 trade show.
In January 2010, at the Consumer Electronics Show, Boxee garnered 5 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)".
In April 2011, It was made public that Boxee had violated the terms of the GPL in the way they used open source software. According to the GPLv3, which governed software in the firmware of the device, users need to be able to reinstall modifications to the device. Boxee admitted the software was included in each device, but stated that their financial agreements with other companies were at risk if they complied. Despite much user dismay there was no change in course by Boxee.
On 31 October 2012 Boxee posted a statement on their website saying they had to make a decision between releasing a device which was hackable, or one which was commercially viable with premium content.
As it stated, Boxee would have loved for the Boxee Box to be open to other software, but ultimately, they were bound by agreements with their content providers to ensure the security of the content. This started a spate of negative comments from Boxee Box users on the Boxee blog as prior Boxee promises had indicated otherwise. 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. However, the old Boxee blog was not deleted but moved.
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, this could possibly make it illegal in certain 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.