As we’ve recounted in earlier instalments, XBMC took a long time to hit its full open source, multi-platform glory. But by 2008, not only had it successfully spread across multiple operating systems, it had also inspired a growing clan of daughter projects which took its code and swizzled it for extra effect.
(By the way, we know we’ve already run two instalments on the history of Boxee and have only just got to Boxee itself. But there’s nothing wrong with a little context, is there?)
XBMC has been the basis for numerous spin-off projects, including the well-regarded Plex for the Mac and the more recent XBMC4Xbox, which took over the task of producing an Xbox-specific version once it became clear that was a distraction from the central goals of the XBMC project. Boxee, though, has arguably become the most prominent, not least because it has actively sought to commercialise its products and license its code to hardware manufacturers.
That goal offered two potential benefits. Firstly, by partnering with equipment builders, Boxee stood a chance of appearing on media centres for people who didn’t want to go through the sometimes geeky steps needed to actually set up a console-based or PC-based system themselves. Secondly, a commercial product could more easily deal with some of the copyright and patent issues that often pop up with media playback systems.
Like XBMC itself, Boxee took some time between getting set up and actually releasing code. While the idea for the company was first floated by a group of XBMC enthusiasts in 2007, it was June 2008 before there was any version of the software available for anyone to download, and a while longer before non-Mac versions appeared. It wasn’t until January 2010 that a release close to the current interface was made generally available for anyone to use.
That didn’t mean nothing was happening though. Throughout 2009 and 2010, Boxee tweaked its interface and its software, made constant alterations as content providers like Hulu tried to block access to their services, and negotiated deals to have its OS added to a range of devices. Hackers also enthusiastically tweaked Boxee to run on devices such as the Apple TV and to automate the process of adding and accessing content. By the time that happened, Boxee had finalised some major hardware deals, which is where we’ll return to the story tomorrow.