History Of Boxee: Starting With A Different Kind Of Box

Come November, you'll be able to pick up a dedicated Boxee Box for all your streaming media needs for a pleasantly reasonable $299. To celebrate its impending launch, over the next week, we're going to retrace the origins of Boxee, how it ended up on the Boxee Box and look at what the future might hold for media centres generally. But we have to start at the beginning, and in the beginning was some open source code and a somewhat different kind of box.

What people want from a media centre has not really changed since we first started thinking about them: something that can sit in your living room and offer you access to all the media that can be found on your PC and the wider Internet, but without looking ugly or making too much noise or clashing with your carefully planned decor choices. So it's not surprising that some enterprising geek types figured that it would be a good idea to write some media centre software to run on the Xbox, which back in 2004 was the device most likely to be in your lounge room that already have a hard drive attached. Thus was born XBMC (Xbox Media Center, complete with the inevitable US spelling).

XBMC itself evolved from Xbox Media Player, an earlier project designed to ensure that the Xbox could play a wider range of media than Microsoft itself seemed inclined to bother with. However, it offered a much broader range of features than just simple playback, and version 2.0 of the software, which appeared in 2006, was appealing enough to make people consider buying an Xbox even if they didn't plan on playing any games.

Developing open source software for the Xbox was quite a brave choice. Microsoft tightly controls distribution of software for its gaming platform via its development tools, and doesn't let just anyone push out executable code to run on it. The official means of accessing XBMC was by downloading source code and then compiling it yourself - a fiddly process that not everyone wanted to follow. In practice, you've always been able to download executable versions, but this was technically illegal and officially discouraged.

Either way, that didn't stop XBMC becoming widely popular as a media centre software choice, while its open source nature meant both that it could readily adapt to new media formats and - more temptingly - be ported onto other platforms. And that's where we'll pick up the story on Monday.

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    I bought an xbox(original) just for XBMC when it was first available back in 2005. Still running perfectly well too.

    That's unfortunate.... I'm really excited about this product, but it's available on Amazon for pre-order at $199.95. Which is... basically worth exactly the same in AU right now.

    I'm really over the "Down Under Tax" Even with shipping, that Boxee shouldn't cost anymore than about $249.95 at a stretch.

      C'mon... the price has been $349 until yesterday and after a lot of people complained they actually lowered it to $299 which for me does the trick.

        So instead of a $250 markup for Australians, it's a $100 - and that makes you feel better? It's still a 50% markup, and if it's cheaper to import it by air, then it's too dear here.

    Is this an "advertorial"?

    My whole screen is green and I keep having the urge to buy something from D-Link?

    It says you can watch TV on it but it has no aerial input. It would be perfect if it was also a digital set top box with PVR.

    What is with the silly case design? They felt like making it 3 inches taller and more annoying instead of shorter and wider?

    Especially great that you won't be able to sensibly sit anything on top of it. Clearly the people who came up with this design and approved it don't live in the real world.

      First thing I thought........hows that going to fit into my hifi / pvr / dvd rack? Inconvenient design imho.

        Agreed, especially as my new Apple TV is so compact that you don't notice it sitting on top of the bluray/dvd player.

    I bought an old xbox and put XBMC on it just 1 month ago. Works great, for anything not HD... but that's ok when you still don't have a HD tv. :)

      Yep the old xbox still goes strong in my house with XBMC on it, great for downloaded SD content.
      Haha love its determination - even if you put a HD file on it it will play it, very skippy and jumpy (unwatchable) though, but the old fella trys.

      I use a PS3 and Blu Rays for the movies that need to be watched and enjoyed in HD.

    I use my Mac Mini as a computer/HTPC with attatched 2TB of storage. Streaming is for suckers.

    Im about to put Boxee on my HTPC

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