Most media streaming enthusiasts are aware of Boxee, the XBMC fork which has gained a huge following for its 10-foot user interface combined with social networking features. It is available for multiple platforms based on the x86 architecture, but the core business model has always remained a mystery. Some of the components of Boxee are proprietary, and Boxee has always shown keen enthusiasm in licensing the software to third party hardware and operating systems. At the 2010 CES, Boxee took its first step towards extending its business model by developing a hardware set top box in partnership with D-Link.

Current day media streamers based on the Sigma Designs and Realtek chipsets are often treated with disdain by some users because of the lack of a proper user interface. While XBMC and other such applications provide a great interface, they are unfortunately restricted to HTPCs. The mainstream consumer doesn't want the hassle of setting up and maintaining a HTPC in his living room, and it is exactly this demographic that has been targeted by the multitude of media streamers in the market right now.

The ideal solution in the living room would combine the popular UI of HTPC based media centers with the decoding power of the present day media streamers. Unfortunately, these UIs are dependent on some sort of OpenGL acceleration being made available in the base platform. Till now, the powerful media streamer platforms from Sigma Designs and Realtek have had very rudimentary OpenGL support, which makes porting XBMC onto such platforms an exercise in frustration.

The Boxee Box announced at the 2010 CES was based on the Tegra 2. In a post made on my personal blog right after the CES announcement, I had expressed my reservations on how it would be foolhardy to expect the same sort of performance from an app-processor based device as what one would expect from a dedicated media streamer or HTPC. Just as suspected, Boxee had to replace Tegra 2 with a much more powerful SoC. After evaluating many solutions, Boxee and D-Link decided to choose the Atom based Intel CE4100 for the Boxee Box.

We met with Avener Ronen (CEO of Boxee) and Brent Collins (Director of Consumer Marketing at D-Link) yesterday to discuss the changes in the Boxee Box. The next few sections present what we gleaned from the discussion and our analysis of the same.

Tegra 2 Out, CE 4100 In
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  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Thanks, fixed.
  • evilspoons - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    People actually still care about Real Media content?? I haven't installed Realplayer in something like seven years and I've only come across a couple things I haven't been able to watch as a result.

    Also: I find it extremely unlikely to matter to 99.5% of consumers that this thing is missing NFS support. You're going to want to watch files shared on a Windows box or a Mac, and SMB would cover both of those- the Macs would just require you to turn on the proper sharing feature. (Isn't HFS+ a file system like NTFS?)

    Wikipedia even redirects CIFS to SMB so I'm not sure what the issue is there...

    As for the Linux nuts who are miffed they don't have NFS, well, just install Samba. It's not hard.

    And FTP? Either you've got a local link and can use SMB or you probably don't have a fast enough streaming connection to worry about playing video from FTP anyway. I mean, for the future, sure, but it seems weird to list as a con right now.

    Now: disc menus and DRM'd disc content not being available, those are real drawbacks. This thing would be absolutely killer in the market if you could plug in a USB Blu-Ray drive and watch movies the same way you do on a "regular' player.
  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    evilspoons, CIFS is fixed now.

    RealMedia is very prevalent in China (and by extension, with the Chinese community in the US). Otherwise, all the media streamer chip companies wouldn't be adding support to it (Sigma Designs added support for Real Media in the new 8646 which they have been avoiding for 3 generations of chips).

    NFS is important for Blu-Ray ISO streaming since SMB often has bottlenecks and lesser throughput.
  • evilspoons - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Huh, I had no idea about the RealMedia thing or the NFS business - I have hard-wired GigE that has never given me bandwidth troubles with SMB, but apparently it has seriously helped people with 802.11n cards and stuttering movies.

    Please note that I re-read my comment and it seemed a bit mean-spirited, I didn't mean anything of the sort - just giving my opinion.

    I may very well buy one or two of these Boxes if they're nearly as good as we all hope.
  • chrnochime - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    People actually care to muck around with a media streamer that has this shortcoming or that? Huh?

    If I'm stuck with getting a media streamer, it would actually be VERY convenient since all those Chinese subbed J dramas are encoded to rmvb. Just because you don't care doesn't mean it's useless for others. Oh wait I thought that was obvious already LOL
  • deadsix - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Why did the Boxee engineers disable GigE? While streaming movies to my PS3 with PS3 media server I've seen over 100Mbps.
  • sprockkets - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    If that were the case your movie size would be around 50 gigabytes for a 90 minute movie. Sure about that?
  • haze4peace - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    That simply isn't true. My roommate streams high quality movies from my computer and I watch how much bandwidth is sent to him. It rarely goes over 6 MBps on the highest of quality movies i own. Usually hovers between 2 and 3 MBps. 100Mbps can theoretically runs at 12.5MBps, which is more than enough to watch a single movie.
  • deadsix - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    I'm basing it off what the PS3 says when you bring up the info overlay... but that might be video bitrate.... I might have been confused.
  • mataichi - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    All the media streamers I've seen render subtitles in some generic looking way (ie same font, color, border etc). I assume Boxee will be the same? For instance, if I watch a file on my computer and the subtitle color is red and some cursive font, will it display this way on Boxee or will it convert to the generic style. I watch a lot of subtitled videos and its a big deal that the subtitles display as the subtitler intended.

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