If you haven’t used Boxee, its an interface for media based on the XBox Media Center (XBMC) platform. You can install it on your Mac and it’ll scan all your media folders and give you a browsable interface thats compatible with the little white Apple remote. It also does a good job with streaming content sources (like Hulu, Comedy Centtral, etc) and it is social (you can make friends and see what they are watching, etc.)
But what really had people excited was that you could install Boxee on AppleTV and access all the same functionality on your living room on your sweet HDTV with your home stereo etc. I’ve been following this space for a long time and it seemed like just maybe someone had finally cracked the living room media center code, which has seen hundreds of millions of dollars in flame outs. Why? An open architecture that would work on any living room based linux box with a good mix of streaming vs. owned media and a nice UI and some lite social networking. No DRM, no prepackaged content deals with a locked partner set. And a small company with a moderate burn rate that didn’t need to become a behemoth to be successful and provide a good return to its investors. Success would mean that the streaming/caching models that are developing on the internet would work on your best media-watching screen.
And Boxee has been going about their business the right way. They preserve the Hulu interface, preserve its commercials, don’t allow stream ripping, etc. Its basically the same experience you can have right now on your PC. Any Macgiver with some duct tape and some patch cables can already put Hulu on their TV. Boxee just made it easier.
I don’t actually use Boxee a ton, but it’s great for what it is. I NEVER watch live TV, I always time shift so I never watch commercials in my living room. The only exception being on Hulu on Boxee on Apple TV.
So if you are a media company and you’ve already come to terms with putting your content on Hulu, why on earth would you not want entrepreneurs to figure out ways to get that content on more screens? Of course this means that existing models and franchises (like Sat TV and cable TV esp.) are threatened, but that was the case before Boxee. And as Mark Cuban has so elequently (and correctly) argued the internet is a long way from being able to replace satellite and cable for breadth of on demand HD content in the living room at a mass market level. Companies like Boxee are exactly the kind of companies you want innovating for you, because if the innovation doesn’t happen there its all hacks and hackers and torrents. Plus if they start picking up steam you can buy them and have them help you evolve and live to fight on. Its like our experience with the music industry all over again.
The living room TV is a screen, just like my phone and my computer screen. Captive media audiences are a thing of the last century, you can’t lock down the content and you can’t completely control distribution. If you can’t figure out a way to create loyal followers with great user experiences, your content is useless. Pissing off early adopters is a horrible way to go about evolving your business.
UPDATE: check out Jonathan Strauss’s Boxee logo with a black eye.