We’ve already established that Boxee is one of the more notable spin-offs from the original XBMC project. What is it that makes it stand out from its parent product and rival media centre software offerings?
The most obvious example, and the one that attracted the most attention for Boxee early on, is its integration of ‘social’ features. Each Boxee user has their owner account, and you can share recommendations for viewing with others, a particularly useful option with online media streams. Via integration with Twitter and similar sites, Boxee makes it possible to share what you’re viewing or listening to with others (though you can easily tweak those options to avoid bombarding your friends with in-depth updates on your viewing habits).
The second key feature was the in-depth integration of online video (from legal sources). Boxee makes playback from YouTube and other online sources a breeze. Unsurprisingly, much of the early work in this area has been US-centric, but even then there were occasional roadblocks; US TV-sharing site Hulu, for instance, was less than keen to be involved, and much cat-and-mouse ensued between the two parties (Boxee eventually added a browser option to work around site-specific blocking, meaning it could handle most Flash-encoded video).
Boxee absorbs the XBMC concept of designing an interface designed primarily for use on a large screen, rather than mimicking the kind of options you’d typically see on a standard PC (often described as a 10-foot friendly approach). It actively encourages third-party developers to build plug-ins to enable additional kinds of content via its AppBox service.
While those Boxee options aren’t hardware-dependent, combining Boxee’s software with custom-designed hardware does offer some useful options, a theme we’ll pick up when we resume with the next instalment tomorrow.