Daily Marauder


THINKING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX, OR IN THIS CASE IN IT: BOXEE UNVEILED by Martha

THINKING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX, OR IN THIS CASE IN IT: BOXEE UNVEILED

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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IS TV SOCIAL? by Marauder

IS TV SOCIAL?

cartoon-social1

Photo Credit: Sangrea.net

Guest Writer: Dr. Marie-Jose Montpetit

You can add ratings in YouTube, tell your friends in Boxee what you are watching, update your Facebook from your TV. So TV is truly connecting you with your social network. But is it a new hit thing or the rediscovery of a common TV experience?

Mass events were and remain always social: natural catastrophes, major sport events and popular shows are always better when watched together and discussed the next day. They also define a “group’s brand” – who watches what. With multiple TVs per households TV viewing has become more isolated but still many shows are better consumed in a group.  The new social TV redefines the living room and the water cooler of the 50s on a global scale; re-defining who is “close” to you.  With tools that create your personal TV listings and DVRs to record them, you can share and rate them socially.

social

Photo Credit: Jobing.com

Interactive TV has been around for a while, albeit without a real uptake. Are social networks finally giving it it’s sought after market? It surely seems so. There is a convergence in the TV world right now with the emergence of online video and user generated content favoring a more “connected” TV experience.  To enable this experience, devices like mobile phones are getting better screens and set top boxes are becoming higher quality in performance.  In addition, the focus is now on user experience and personalization and of course integration with Facebook, MySpace and other social networks.

But the nature of Social TV has also evolved. From adding IM to a football match to adding widgets to tell you the weather, social TV is morphing into a much more rich set of interactions. As a colleague of mine, Kevin Brooks said recently, it’s about defining “identity” and “proximity”: implemented well Social TV can combine the “lean back” experience of watching with the “lean forward” of interaction.

This isn’t only limited to just TVs but on any device: mobility is about people too. Some pundits have claimed TV is dead. Maybe it is just changing for the better: TV is now connected, mobile and of course social.

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ONLINE SERVICES/INTERACTIVE MEDIA by Marauder

ONLINE SERVICES/INTERACTIVE MEDIA

Techcrunch recently wrote that Joost still had a heartbeat despite the fact they made the wrong bet years ago by underestimating the power of the web for watching videos. They finally switched to Flash late last year, giving up on P2P, and introduced some social networking features around the video viewing experience to battle established players like Hulu, TV.com and YouTube. Now it’s taking a step beyond that by forming an alliance with Europe’s leading social networking service, Belgium-based Netlog, theoretically expanding its reach to 40 million people. (http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/03/05/joost-continues-fight-for-relevancy-teams-up-with-social-network-netlog 3/5)

It’s still hard for me to take Joost seriously.  A clusterf@#$ck of content that no one is really interested in now that we have Hulu…

joost-netlog

Hulu really seems to be drawing a line in the sand for third-party developers. After pulling its content from the popular Boxee content portal, Hulu as now disabled video playback on the open source client-based desktop app MyMediaPlayer2, according to an open letter from developer Paul Yanez, who claims Hulu was disabled just 4 hours after the app was profiled in TechCrunch. The Adobe Air-based application, which utilized Hulu’s RSS feeds to pull a selection of movies and TV shows from Hulu with the ads attached, set out to expand Hulu’s availability to multiple OS’s, media players and devices while added increased functionality such as an integration with Twitter enabling micro-blogging during full-episode streaming. (Cynopsis 3/5)

The podcasting audience continues to grow at a healthy clip according to the latest eMarketer figures. As a percentage of internet users, podcast downloaders will grow from 9% in 2008 to 17% in 2013 to 37.6 million users. The number goes up significantly when cross-referenced with users who make purchases on the internet according to a PriceGrabber survey, which found that 50% of online buyers also listened to podcasts. (Cynopsis 3/5)

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