The Boxee software does a grand job of organising digital media and helping you view it and share it with others, and you can install it on plenty of hardware platforms. But what if you don't want to install it at all?
Among the many posts about Boxee over at our sibling site Lifehacker, there's one which details how to build your own Boxee media centre based on a cheap PC. If you're a serious geek, there's nothing in that set of instructions that will faze you, and in fact most of the fiddly elements come from configuring Linux to work with various playback elements, rather than from installing Boxee itself.
Nonetheless, you don't have to be a serious geek to have a large collection of media on your hard drive, and a desire to watch Internet content on your snazzy new TV. That doesn't mean you want to spend your time configuring Ubuntu software repositories, in all probability.
Part of the Boxee vision was always that the code would be licensed to hardware manufacturers, who could use it to build dedicated media appliances such as set-top boxes. Doing that would offer a much easier setup experience for the average user, who could just power up the device to organise and access rather than spending time configuring minor details. The Boxee software offers much greater flexibility for media viewing in terms of file types than most existing commercial media centre devices, which often either run Windows Media Center or their own restricted environments.
In theory, a manufacturer could include Boxee on a Windows-based machine, but in practice doing so on a Linux-based offers better performance and a much cheaper (as in free) software licensing cost. And that's the route taken with the Boxee Box, developed by Boxee in conjunction with D-Link.
Gizmodo has been tracking the development of the Boxee Box closely ever since it was first announced back in December 2009, and now it's less than a month away from shipping. While there have been some changes (the original plan to use NVIDIA Tegra 2 chips was ditched in favour of Intel's atom, for instance), the basic vision of a lounge room device for easily accessing the Boxee experience hasn't changed. We'll look at where that vision might take us next in tomorrow's final instalment.