Boxee is an application designed to hoover up TV and video feeds from around the web, making them accessible in a unified, full-screen interface. There are competitors that haven’t attracted quite as much attention – Joost and Babelgum come to mind – but Boxee has a flexibility that’s missing from those services. It allows you to play back media that’s already on your own machine and DVDs, as well as streaming services. It also has a built-in TV Show library – which is frustrating for reasons we’ll come to in a moment.
Boxee’s killer feature, though, is the ability to add Apps. These are bespoke applications that pull content from specific sites. For example, you can add the BBC iPlayer and use Boxee’s controls to access your favourite shows from the last few days.
As for playback and functionality, Boxee is built around XBMC – X-Box Media Centre – an open-source video and audio playback tool similar to Front Row. Boxee’s twist on XBMC is that the interface has had a significant and professional-looking revamp. It looks absolutely stunning. Add this to remote-control features, using your standard TV controller or a free iPhone app, and you have an impressive media centre in its own right.
Trying out some content on Boxee in the UK gives us an idea of what it must feel like to access Spotify from New Jersey, though. That’s not Boxee’s fault, it’s to do with licensing issues for video across national boundaries, and while there is some UK-specific content, including ITV Player and Five on Demand, you may feel like you’re missing out sometimes. That’s especially true when you get as far as a full loading screen before being told that the content isn’t available.
Boxee is one to keep an eye on. Proving popular in the US, and with an Apple TV version too, it should get better as access to streaming video services improves online. For the time being, it’s a great little media centre.