updated 08:45 pm EST, Wed November 10, 2010
Boxee gets Hulu Plus and new interface
Boxee at its Brooklyn launch event revealed that the Boxee Box and the software platform would be getting a handful of key launch partners. Hulu Plus is the highlight and will see Boxee offer the $10 monthly streaming service on its media hub. The company didn't say if the free web version will be blocked outright, but it said free wouldn't be an option and promised a "real" Hulu designed for TV rather than just the browser.
Netflix is coming onboard by the end of the year and will come with a new version of the Boxee remote to jump directly to the streaming movie feature.
The media hub hardware and software will also have access to YouTube's music video-focused partner Vevo as well as AccuWeather, Vice Magazine, the New York Times, TED talks and the channels that were available in earlier versions. Live NHL games were unveiled for Boxee earlier today.
Along with the launch, Boxee has also unveiled a redesigned interface. The new front end is simplified and focuses on the ability to queue videos from multiple sources, nicknamed Watch Later, and the ability to see what friends have been watching. An always-available menu lets users drill down hierarchically or run a search without leaving the existing view. Apps are still a core of the platform but now support HTML5 apps, such as the NYT title, through the WebKit browser underneath. Boxee hoped Apple would support some of the HTML5 apps since they could work with their content mostly unchanged.
The company has emphasized that it will support many video formats and has a raw file browser to explore content.
Boxee Boxes are shipping for pre-orders as of today and will reach many physical and online stores in 33 countries on November 17. It officially sells for $229, but at least some stores are offering the set-top for $199. Desktop software remains free, but Boxee is working on an iPad app and plans to work on Android next year.
The launch may make the Boxee Box one of the largest challengers to the Apple TV. Google has tried to force the use of web browsers for Internet-based TV video but has been blockedby most studios. Apple has the advantage of iTunes and Netflix, but its local content streaming is dependent on the iTunes app and support considerably fewer formats. Users should just be able to assume a video will play, Boxee founder Avner Ronen said.