Boxee Beta, New Astro-Designed, D-Link-Manufactured Boxee Box Unveiled (Screenshots and Photos)

--ClipSync's Social TV Technology Integrated with Boxee Platform

Over-the-top-TV specialist, Boxee, unveiled the beta version of its platform at an event in Brooklyn last night, and also revealed that the new Boxee set-top box that it promised a few weeks back (see the article published on itvt.com, November 16th) has been designed by Astro (which also designed the Xbox) and will be built by D-Link.

New and/or revamped features offered by Boxee Beta include:

  • A complete redesign of the platform's home screen, which the company bills as making it easier for users to navigate to their favorite content. According to Boxee CEO, Avner Ronen, the company has "pulled the menu out from the side and put it front and center," and has placed underneath it a "hub for recommendations and content" that allows users to view recommendations from their friends on Boxee, Facebook or Twitter (in a section dubbed "Feed"), and from Boxee staff and partners (in a section dubbed "Featured"), as well as to view the latest episodes from their favorite shows and content that they have saved for later (in a section dubbed "Queue").
  • A new "global menu" that the company bills as "mak[ing] it easy to access helpful resources (TOP: Logout, Settings, Queue, Feed, History), the main menu (MIDDLE: Photos, Music, Movies, Home, TV Shows, Apps, Files) and shortcuts (BOTTOM) to your favorite Apps, TV Shows, Movies, or Folders."
  • An overhaul of the platform's Movies and TV Shows sections to include both Internet and local content. "If you know what it is you want to watch, we'll show you where you can find it and start playing it immediately--no need to go through an app," Boxee CEO Ronen explains on the company's blog. "Not sure what you're in the mood for, we've made it easy to browse a ton of popular movies from the Internet by selecting the Movie library. We've put a special focus on TV Shows to better organize what you can watch. Boxee now organizes TV shows by season and episode, and lets you filter by whether freely available or not, so once you've seen all the free episodes you can decide if that DVD is worth it."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • A Boxee Queue, which Ronen describes as "a list that you control and manage. You can put almost anything into your Queue, a movie, a TV show episode, an Internet stream, a local file," he explains on Boxee's blog. "In addition, if you added your favorite TV shows into My Shows, then new episodes will automatically be added to your Queue. Unwatched items will appear in bold, white font."
  • An easier way to find and test new apps. "You can sort by popularity or browse the newest additions to the Boxee App Library," Ronen writes. "Clicking an app will let you choose whether you'd like to run it, add it to My Apps (the list of your favorite apps) or add it as a Shortcut. We also made it easier to add and browse third-party app repositories," he adds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Easier sharing (with Boxee, Twitter or Facebook friends) of the content a user is viewing, as well as the ability for a user who is sharing content to add their own custom message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition, Boxee says that it has changed the underlying graphic library on the Windows implementation of its platform from OpenGL to DirectX, and that it is also using DXVA, which, according to Ronen "means Boxee for Windows just got faster and can play 1080p without your CPU breaking a sweat." Other new features include official support for Snow Leopard and Ubuntu Karmic.

Boxee Beta is scheduled to be opened up to the public on January 7th at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Over the next four weeks, the company plans to release invitations to users who signed up for its early access list and then to other Boxee Alpha users.

The new Boxee box, meanwhile, which will be showcased at CES and which is slated for commercial availability in the second quarter of next year, can be connected via HDMI, SPDIF and RCA Audio, has two USB ports, and can quickly connect to a home network using WiFi (802.11n) and Wired Ethernet, according to D-Link. It measures 120mm x 120mm x 120mm and will be priced at around $200. D-Link will apparently not, however, be Boxee's only consumer electronics partner: according to Boxee's VP of product, Zach Klein, the company hopes to make its platform available on "many consumer electronics devices as the primary software" by the end of 2010. NewTeeVee's Ryan Lawler has more.

Video of the Boxee Beta and Boxee Box unveiling event is embedded below.

In other Boxee news: San Francisco-based social TV specialist, ClipSync (note: in recent months, the company has announced social TV partnerships with CBS and Epix--see the articles published on itvt.com, July 14th and December 2nd), announced Monday that it has partnered with the company to integrate its social TV features for all Boxee video content partners (note: Cliqset's social TV technology is also integrated with Boxee).

According to ClipSync, its social TV platform offers Boxee TV and movie content partners plug-and-play social features that increase viewing time, drive new traffic and retain viewership. It says that the platform is designed to easily "snap on" to a media company's current Boxee application, allowing the company to maintain control of its video stream while enhancing the viewing experience. The platform is billed as allowing viewers to interact with one another in a number of ways, including playing trivia games and chatting; in addition, ClipSync says, it allows them to leave behind comments that are synchronized with the video they were watching, enabling other viewers to see and react to at those comments at the same moments in the video.

ClipSync claims that its social TV platform delivers "the same breadth of interactive features" whether one person is watching or thousands. The company says that the "intimate setting" that consumers experience when watching a TV show or movie with a few friends online is easily replicated to create a "stadium-type experience" for large-scale events. This flexibility, the company claims, gives Boxee content partners the ability to easily integrate social features into their content regardless of viewership scale. "We've heard about 'social TV" for years, but only now are we really starting to see it take place with the mainstream content now available online," Boxee CEO Ronen said in a prepared statement. "Our partnership with ClipSync is a great step forward in giving content partners the plug-n-play technology needed to give consumers a more engaging experience--with the fun social interaction they're looking for while enjoying their favorite TV shows or movies." Added ClipSync CEO, Itzik Cohen: "Social TV is a great way for people to re-connect and interact with others while watching TV and movies in an era where time-shifting, the Internet, busy schedules and geographical separation led to solo TV viewing. Our technology embedded in Boxee responds to our innate desire for social interaction, and will further drive interest and engagement in the TV shows and movies partners are providing."

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