Daily Marauder



Guest Writer: Martha Rivera

A sold out crowd gathered at the Williamsburg Music Hall in Brooklyn, NY last night for the unveiling of the Boxee beta as well as to catch a glimpse of the highly anticipated Beta Box.

Launched in 2008, Boxee is software that aggregates media content from the web and your personal computer and streams it on your HD television. It searches web based content providers like YouTube, Netflix, MySpaceTV, Blip.TV, CBS.com, Revision3, flickr, and Pandora, among others and brings the content straight to your living room television. Missing still from the list of content providers is the online video site, Hulu. In addition to streaming web content, it also pulls media content from your own personal computer including your ITunes, personal videos and pictures. Boxee is an open source platform allowing users to create their own apps. To date, there are over 300.

“Our biggest challenge is distribution,” said Boxee CEO Avner Ronen.   The hurdle is getting cable affiliates and major content providers, like Hulu on board. At the core of the problem is fear of piracy and concern that the advertising is stripped from the content. However, Boxee pulls online content as is, which includes the advertising that is attached to it. Boxee also has the ability to track a host of analytics far outweighing television’s usage reporting. Ronen is hoping media companies and cable providers will become comfortable once they understand usage.

Four weeks ahead of its wide release at CES, Ronen introduced the beta software and Boxee Box, as well as announced the launch of 3 new apps: the hipster soft-core site Suicide Girls, the online gamer e-zine The Escapist and Clicker, TV guide, entertainment search engine and DVR all rolled into one.

Boxee Beta

Overall, Boxee Beta looks great and is much more user-friendly. The UI has been streamlined with a new layout. The menu, previously hidden, is now front and center. The home screen has been redesigned to feature the main menu, featured content, personal queue and the friend feed.

My favorite social networking feature is the ability to connect to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Any media that your friends or followers share with you will automatically populate on your queue. Too busy to watch videos at work? Don’t have the ability to watch video because you don’t have an office or are on the go? Another feature allows a viewer to send media assets to your queue so you can watch when you get home.

The search function has also been streamlined. Now users can search for movies, TV shows as well as local and online content at once. Boxee Beta populates all content from your computer as well as from any web source that works with Boxee. Of note, you can now mark content as “watched.” Better yet, the search function lets you omit “watched” content from the results.

Boxee focused specifically on TV shows in the Beta redesign. TV shows are now organized by season and episode. You can follow your favorite TV shows, and like Hulu, it will automatically populate your queue with new episodes.

Another new feature is the Global Menu. This menu is essentially the shortcuts screen. It provides quick access to predetermined shortcuts, favorite apps, history, and settings.

Other features include allowing users to interact with the apps without having to download them, a now playing button on every screen allowing easier navigation back to the player, a new Last.fm and flickr interface as well as a main background that changes based on the time of day.

As of this writing, 85% of Boxee’s 700,000 users use a Mac. However, Boxee Beta has not forgotten about its Windows’ friends. It will now run on Direct X, which will mean a better experience for the PC user.

Boxee Box by D-Link

The night also included the highly anticipated unveiling of the Boxee Box. Boxee partnered with D-Link, better known as the makers of wireless routers, to create the hardware. Astro Studios, the cutting edge designers behind products like the X-Box 360 and Nike, designed the sleek cube. This small black submerged cube will sit on top of the many boxes taking up space near your TV. The guys at Boxee hope that eventually you’ll do away with all those boxes and just use the Boxee Box.

The Boxee Box will retail at $200 and will be available for distribution sometime in 2Q10.

Why Boxee?

I’m a three-screen user. I watch TV, while surfing on my laptop, with my phone not far away. Having used the Alpha, I don’t know if I can give up my computer that easily. As I was navigating the web content on Boxee, I found my multi-tasking self wanting to toggle out of the screen to search the web while the video played. Because I was unfamiliar with the navigation, or more like because I’m a specific type of navigator, all of a sudden I felt trapped. According to Andrew Kippen, VP of Marketing, “Boxee is about fighting tradition. It’s streamlining your viewing experience by consolidating it all into one. Boxee is the tip of the iceberg for what’s possible.”

The Boxee Beta version seems much more straightforward. It’s easy-to-use features will allow users to not feel so (excuse the pun) boxed in. Then again, in this case, that’s what the creators of Boxee want you to do. Engage with the content within the box.

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Measuring viewer “engagement” on TV is simple. You count how many people tune into a given show. It stands to reason that the most popular shows would also be the most popular ones on social networks. But that is not exactly the case. Networked Insights, a company that measures brand engagement on social networks, compared the top ten TV shows for the week of September 22 to 28, as measured by Nielsens, to the most talked about TV shows on social networks, as measured by which ones were most commented on, linked to, shared, or rated. The comparison is for the 18 to 49 year-old demographic. (http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/10/27/the-most-watched-tv-shows-are-not-the-most-talked-about-online 10/27)

For most people, watching Web video is predominantly a streamed experience on their computers. But an important and substantial portion of Web video is still downloaded to be watched later, or transferred to a different screen (usually an iPod, but sometimes a flat-screen TV). The problem with downloads is that they don’t fit neatly into the advertising model that rules most other Web video. CEO Mike Hudack of Blip.tv revealed that his company has found a way to dynamically insert ads from DoubleClick into video downloads on iTunes and elsewhere. (http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/10/28/bliptv-figures-out-how-to-serve-ads-in-itunes-videos 10/28)

Microsoft made a major announcement today – they will be offering “lightweight” versions of Office applications – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote – through the browser. Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari will be supported. Users will be able to read and edit documents from the browser. (http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/10/28/microsoft-office-embraces-the-browser-thank-you-google 10/28)

MTV launched a free online music-video service this week that eventually will be supported by advertising, according to this report. The site, at mtvmusic.com, is looking to capitalize on the popularity of other online video ventures, including Hulu.com, the partnership between NBC Universal and News Corp., which currently is the sixth-most-popular U.S. video site on the Web. Advertising Age (10/27)

An update to Techcrunch’s recent post on Facebook Connect: Facebook is pushing partners hard to be prepared for an official November 30 launch.   24 of 26 announced launch partners have yet to integrate Facebook Connect. (http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/10/28/facebook-connect-launch-scheduled-for-november-30 10/28)

Some online-advertising networks are shutting down while others are cutting costs as growth in online spending slows and venture-capital funding begins to dry up. AdBrite recently cut 40% of its work force. Other ad networks “are in severe trouble and could be closing their doors.” (Iwantmedia 10/28, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122514803617173825.html 10/28)

On the heels of announcing an expanded relationship with the New York Times website last week, Brightcove is adding all of AOL to its video-distribution client list. Like the New York Times, AOL is an investor in Brightcove.  But the deal is a coup for Brightcove 3, the latest version of its online video platform. Brightcove 3 will power all the video on AOL, which is one of the top ten destinations on the Web for video. (http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/10/27/brightcove-snags-aol-video-deal 10/27)

There’s been more downsizing in the start-up space (TechCrunch’ s Layoff Tracker counts 573 tech start-up layoff so far) and cost-cutting moves have begun to hit the creative side of the business. Web studio Revision3 announced a wave of layoffs and is shutting down production on Pixel Perfect, PopSiren and Internet Superstar. Revision3 also said it will cease distributing EPIC FU and Wine Library, both of which are produced by independent studios. EPIC FU producer Smashface followed with the news it was forced to lay off three members of its production team. (Cynopsis 10/28)

The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, on behalf of a broad class of copyright holders, will join with Google to host a teleconference today to discuss a settlement agreement that would expand online access to millions of in-copyright books and other written materials in the U.S. from the collections of a number of major U.S. libraries participating in Google Book Search. (http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/10/28/authors-and-publishers-associations-settle-with-google-over-125-million-lawsuit 10/28)

Leading online firms Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! along with human rights groups have agreed to a common set of principles that will serve as a guide for doing business in countries that place strictures on free speech. Under the Global Network Initiative, the companies promise to “narrowly interpret and implement government demands that compromise privacy.” The Wall Street Journal (10/28) , The New York Times (10/27)

SlideRocket, an online presentation application that produces slideshows that rival (and in many cases, better) PowerPoint, has launched to the general public. The site had previously been available under a public beta, and is now removing the beta tag and introducing a set of pricing tiers along with some impressive new features. (http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/10/28/sliderockets-impressive-online-presentation-app-hits-general-release 10/28)

Top 10 Search Providers for September 2008, Ranked by Searches (U.S.)
Provider                    Searches (000)      YOY Growth     Share of Searches
All Search                   8,089,226               9.4%               100.0%
Google Search             4,825,556              20.8%                59.7%
Yahoo! Search             1,464,478               1.5%                 18.1%
MSN/Windows Live         953,504               7.1%                 11.8%
AOL Search                   335,187             -24.6%                  4.1%
Ask.com Search             178,217              12.1%                  2.2%
My Web Search               53,825               33.4%                  0.7%
Comcast Search              51,935              -13.1%                  0.6%
AT&T Worldnet Search     30,086             237.7%                  0.4%
NexTag Search               17,775              -29.3%                  0.2%
Dogpile.com Search        17,574                -5.3%                  0.2%
Source: Nielsen Online, MegaView Search

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