The news that Samsung has acquired Boxee caught me a little by surprise. Boxee is software that I don't use much anymore, but it changed my life. Back in 2009 I first started using Boxee, which was then a fork of XBMC. Initially I was interested in the social aspects of the software, the ability to share and recommend content, but what became increasingly important to me was the presence of web content as a central feature of the user interface.
Since the app that played YouTube videos on my Roku Player became unavailable I had been searching around for a good solution to stream online video content to my TV. I had been looking at newly announced devices like the Asus Qube or the Samsung Homesync and they looked good but seemed to be taking forever getting to market her in the UK. Another alternative was to get a cheap mini-PC with Android on it. Initially I had been reluctant to do this as they are very cheap and had mixed reviews. Would it be a waste of money?
Imagine a situation where you are sat on your sofa using a laptop to find interesting videos on the web. The laptop is great for this as it is close and you can get a lot of information onto the screen, you also have the keyboard and mouse so navigating options is very useful. Now you've found the video you might hit a snag, what happens if you prefer to play it on that nice big television that is only a few feed from you, instead of the smaller screen of the laptop? Sadly there is often no easy way to do this, but the team over at Ericsson Labs have been working on a solution: Web Device Connectivity (WDC), a solution designed to bring media devices in the home closer to the web by combining the power of the DLNA standard with a web API.
Back in December I was sent a Nokia N900 on a six month trial. I've been living with it as my everyday mobile phone in a special test and having the device for this extended period of time has allowed me to find out lots about this tiny Linux computer. Now that the trial is nearing an end though it is a good time to take things down a gear and relax by listening to music or watching some videos. However, just listening to some local MP3 files on it would be dull, so what else can it do? The N900 has some interesting features in this department, and the inclusion of a TV-out lead and an FM transmitter adds an unusual twist.
Fun? Video chat? Google Wave? That's right, the Wave is not just about collaborative Wikis and seeing what the other person is typing. A really interesting feature of the platform is the ability to add extensions, one of the first of these is 6rounds, an extension that plugs in a full video chat facility to the platform, but not just that, it also provides the ability to perform tasks together. Interestingly, the extension has its roots in Speed Dating, but it looks like it has a great deal of potential, and like many Web 2.0 applications is built using open source technology.
Thanks to a rather clever feature of justin.tv, I've been able to pick out a couple of clips from the recent Boxee App Challenge event in San Francisco. In the first clip judge Cali Lewis has some very kind words for our entry and in the second clip Boxee CEO Avner Ronen talks about the OpenCourseWare and Open University apps making some quite interesting points about what sort of content Boxee users are after. OpenCourseWare went on to win the Judges' award signaling a potentially very bright future for education services on interactive TV.
In many houses the TV and broadband line can be found only inches apart and in most cases no connection is yet made. The Internet had the power to bring about a revolution in the choice of programming available, instead of scheduled streams of programming that we have no control over we will be able to pick and chose what we want to watch from thousands of producers.