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TUAW talks to boxee and brings you invites


Happy Thanksgiving! I'm super thankful that I have been able to spend the last 13 months blogging for TUAW and interacting with all of you. On a more superficial note, I am also thankful for my Macs and all the cool stuff Apple products enable me to do.

The newest member of my Apple family is the Apple TV. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk to Avner and Andrew from boxee, the company behind the social media player of the same name. Boxee released an update earlier this week, but the next big version is set for December 4, 2008. Avner and Andrew were nice enough to answer my questions, share some details about the future of boxee and best of all, provide a link so that TUAW readers can join in the fun! If you want to try boxee on your Mac or Apple TV, enter your e-mail address at and you should get an invite within 24 hours.

In the comments, on Twitter and via e-mail, many of you have asked questions about boxee, its limitations and its future. I took these questions and comments to Avner and Andrew, and here's what I got back.

On .MKV support for Apple TV

Boxee supports the .MKV container and if you are using a Mac mini, MacBook, iMac or Mac Pro, boxee can play back 1080p .mkv files without a problem. Apple TV is limited by its processor and GPU, and it maxes out playing back 420p and 720p .MKV content. I don't usually deal with .MKV, but a quick Google search turned up a lot of information about programs that can be used to convert files. Apparently, the PS3 has this same limitation.

Hulu performance

A number of users have complained about the quality of boxee's Hulu playback. I also noticed a decrease in quality after the latest update. The update on December 4 is going to address this. The big problem, for Apple TV owners, is once again the limitations of the hardware. Seeing as Apple TV's can stream HD content from iTunes (when downloading anyway), I think this is something that can be greatly improved, but it might take some time. Boxee is still in alpha and the goal is to enter beta sometime next year, so while I think the fact that Hulu is supported at all is fantastic, the Apple TV experience might take some time to fully evolve. If you are using a Mac for boxee playback, your performance will be much better.

Future Support

One of the aspects of boxee that stands out the most is the team's commitment to its users. Last week, the boxee blog posted a survey asking users what they want out of the service. The results were posted and the team is committed to working on the most requested features. Netflix support is at the top of the list and boxee is focused on making this happen.

The boxee team is also looking at getting on more playback devices. The Windows alpha will start rolling out in very small increments next week, and boxee is also evaluating the PS3 as a possible platform.

Remote control apps

The development team is very interested in working on a remote control app for the iPhone and iPod touch (similar to the applications Apple and Sonos have already released). This would be a great compliment to a Mac mini or Apple TV HTPC setup.

Supporting Open Source

Boxee is based on the XBMC project, and the teams work closely together. Scott Davilla from XBMC is responsible for the incredible USB Creator and it is clear that the team at boxee clearly respects and fully supports XBMC and its contributors. Personally, I think this is a nice departure from some other media player distributions.

Try boxee yourself

Go to and sign up for the alpha! I'm filmgirl on the service.

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