Boxee gets a $6M catalyst

general — avner ronen on August 12, 2009 @ 9:59 am

We are happy to announce that Boxee closed a $6M round of financing led by Boston-based General Catalyst with participation by prior investors Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures. Neil Sequeira from General Catalyst will join our board.

We closed our Series A late last year, but given the momentum and opportunities we’ve seen over the past few months, we thought it made sense to bring in a new partner and additional funds.

General Catalyst brings more than just money to the table. We wanted a partner to help us as we strengthen our relationships with big media and cable companies. As we learned (the hard way), it is a complicated world.. Neil and General Catalyst as a firm have years of experience, deep understanding, and extensive network in these industries, and we are looking forward to working together with them.

Going forward we plan to focus on:

  • Improving the product - We are working on the Beta release (due later this fall), but also looking beyond Beta and into the roadmap of 2010. The idea is to have a healthy mix of development driven by user feedback (which is the essence of the upcoming Beta) and innovation that comes from within Boxee.
  • Adding more content - We believe Boxee can be a great partner for independent content producers as well as big media companies. We will try to bring more TV Shows, Web Shows and Movies from ad-based, subscription-based and a la carte type services.
  • Attracting more developers - While we have an App Store on Boxee, we know it needs some love. For Developers, we know it needs to be easier to develop and monetize apps. For users, we’re going to make it easier to find apps on Boxee. Last but not least we’re going to extend the APIs so everyone can do more with Boxee.
  • Bringing Boxee into devices - Boxee today is mostly serving a tech-savvy audience - those who feel comfortable connecting a computer to a TV. To make Boxee more accessible for a mainstream consumer it’s important for us to get Boxee embedded into connected TVs and Blu-Ray players, game consoles and set-top boxes. We’re already talking to device makers to ensure Boxee works on a variety of platforms for 2010.

We are really excited about the future and glad to have General Catalyst and Neil as part of the team.

5 Boxee Apps by @dN0t

general — avner ronen on August 3, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

Rob Spectre (aka @dN0t) is one of the most prolific Boxee App developers. He has five apps on the App Box (Auto-Tune The News, FailBlog, Improv Everywhere, Pure Pwnage, Happy Tree Friends) and one more that will come out soon (The Philip DeFranco Show).

Each app has its own unique look and show cases great independently produced content. This is the type of long-tail stuff that gains real traction on the web and there is no reason why people should not be able to enjoy it on their TVs.

Rob knows his stuff. Each one of these apps are gems. I must admit that i am quite addicted to Auto-Tune The News and Fail Blog. here is Rob in his own words about the apps:

So far I’ve developed six skin apps for boxee, all aimed at bringing original and independent online content producers to the television by leveraging boxee’s easy development platform. The content producers represented in each app are very DIY, punk rock approaches to entertainment with a unique focus on quality - much like boxee itself. I’ve long wished they were available on my television, which of course is now possible with boxee.

But never mind the bollocks, here are the apps!

1) Auto-Tune The News

Produced by Brooklyn indie darlings The Gregory Brothers, their series successfully marries satire of corporate music and mainstream news by using the popular audio plugin Auto-Tune to alter the voices of politicians and pundits on cable news. I’ve been a fan for a while and thought it a perfect addition to the family of content available on boxee as well as a good starter app to gain familiarity with boxee development.

Recommended First Episode: “Auto-Tune The News #2: pirates. drugs. gay marriage.”

2) FailBlog

Easily the most popular of my apps thus far, users can finally witness the glorious fail compiled by the FailBlog crew on their televisions. Gathering only the most epic fail, most sick pwnage, and most thoroughly winless footage, FailBlog has become the authoritative source of spectacular embarrassment on the Internet.

Recommended First Episode: “Backspin Fail”

3) Improv Everywhere

This app captures the “missions” of one of my favorite New York comedy ensembles, Improv Everywhere. A singularly capable flash-mob / culture jamming outfit, the Big Apple is their set with Kaufman-esque improv humor guaranteed to delight. This is a kind of funny found nowhere else. This app grabs both their latest exploits as well as their greatest hits.

Recommended First Episode: “Frozen Grand Central”

4) Pure Pwnage

Created by ROFLMAO Productions in the frozen tundra of Toronto, Pure Pwnage is a popular show in a reality format centering around the fictional, but highly believable life of a professional gamer. Jeremy (aka teh_pwnerer) is documented by his film school student brother Kyle dealing with the unique trials and tribulations of being that damn good at video games.

Recommended First Episode: “FPS Doug”

5) Happy Tree Friends

The bastard brainchild of San Francisco’s Mondo Mini-Shows, Happy Tree Friends is the children’s cartoon for the pathologically insane. Featuring ultraviolent animated carnage, this app provides their full length episodes in high quality H.264. Future revisions will feature more of the HTF shorts and fan favorites.

Recommended First Episode: “In A Jam”

6) [COMING SOON] The Philip DeFranco Show

Updated Monday through Thursday every week, the Phillip DeFranco Show is the popular YouTube show of 23-year-old Bronx native Philip DeFranco. Featuring 3-4 minute monologues on the topics of the day, DeFranco delivers a rapid-fire, intensely sarcastic take on the news while cultivating a highly engaged community. It’s like a late night talk show minus the guests and musical acts.

Recommended First Episode: “Best Comic-Con Cosplay and 4Chan Blocked?”

Boxee update. More bug squashing (0.9.14.6992)

general — avner ronen on July 31, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

Bugs are annoying and we’re doing our best to hunt them down. In our continued effort to make Boxee more stable we have released another minor update (0.9.14.6992).

You can download the latest version from here (or run the update directly from the Boxee client or from your Apple TV).

below is the list of fixes:

General

  • Under some circumstances, digital audio of a video does not work
  • Sound distortion for DTS 2.0
  • OS X: Digital output (”check your settings” error message)
  • Unable to launch Boxee with remote
  • Crash when selecting Settings menu
  • Black screen instead of video playback
  • Dual screen - secondary screen showing white, then crash
  • Windows: Win32 window resize when switching between full screen and windowed mode
  • User/password of an SMB share was sometimes shown in path (media action and info screens)
  • OS X 10.4 (e.g. Apple TV): grainy video problems
  • OS X 10.4: crash if setting render method to software
  • Support for ATI graphic cards
  • Media Library - resolving fails with the error PCRE: Match limit reached
  • Updated Spanish translation
  • OS X: boxeeservice is now silent and does not print out to terminal on focus change
  • Incomplete HTTP transfers causing crashes

Formats and Playback

  • Playing certain AVI files crashes
  • OS X: crash when skipping forward on an MKV container with embedded subtitles.
  • Browsing to a folder with corrupt video file crashes
  • Crashes when changing multiple subtitles during video playback
  • RAR compressed video files identified as pictures
  • Crashed due to corrupt subtitles files
  • Issues with audio buffering during video playback

Applications

  • Some applications appear twice in the App Box
  • Pandora crash after opening lyrics and fast forwarding
  • Pandora shutdown after clicking Next a few times
  • BBC iPlayer 1.3 label
  • Netflix browsing too fast.
  • Windows: BoingBoing audio sync issues.
  • Windows: We Are Hunted audio tracks playback

Windows Installer

  • Flash video playback issues after upgrading from pre-0.9.14
  • Update mechanism does not work properly
  • Flash player running during installation causing upgrade issue

Howcast on Boxee

general — avner ronen on July 29, 2009 @ 8:00 am

We are glad to announce that an Howcast App is now available on Boxee. You can browse through top rated, most viewed and most recent how-to videos, or search for a specific video.

Howcast is a great way to learn about stuff. Whether it is How To Live in Your Car or How To Make Ketchup Howcast aims to provide a video answer to any how-to question. The videos are created by Howcast themselves, partners, film students or the community. There are more than 100,000 videos in 25 categories!

It’s quite addictive, going through the most recent or most popular videos, or searching for a how to cook something, or deal with a tech challenge, like How To Connect Your Laptop To Your TV. It is a great service and we’re happy it is now available on Boxee.

Howcast has a very successful iPhone App and I hope the Boxee App will also win many fans.

HippoRemote - a review by Gidon Coussin (aka @boxee_bd)

general — gidonc on July 20, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

30 seconds into playing with the HippoRemote iPhone App I knew this is what I as looking for a while now!

I don’t like using my keyboard and mouse in my living room (even the sexy Apple bluetooth mouse & keyboard are not really awkward to use when sitting on a couch). The Apple Remote or the Boxee Remote on the iPhone is what i use on a regular basis, but in some cases you still need to pull out the mouse & keyboard.

HippoRemote to the rescue with an all-in-one remote app! It serves as a replacement for a keyboard and mouse in the living room (a blessing as far as my wife goes) and has fully integrated remotes for several key apps, most importantly Boxee!

The mouse trackpad is VERY nice, intuitive and responds nicely. double-clicking is an ease and HippoRemote did a great job emulating a real mouse.

The Boxee remote is also great. They did a full implementation of navigational keys, esc/home , search + virtual keyboard and even OSD controls (skip, ff etc).

The app is supper quick and I have not found one error or mishap since started playing with it. kudos.

Couple of things that may make it hard for HippoRemote to gain quick market adoption:

  • You need to setup sharing on your computer and thus will need a keyboard + mouse for first time setup
  • Although 4.99$ is nothing compared to similar devices on the market (for example, ~ 120$ for Logitech diNovo Mini), it’s still a relatively expensive iPhone App

Overall, this is another step in making it easier for people to connect their computers to the TV.

Cheers,
Gidon

new bug fixing version (0.9.14), new web stuff

general — avner ronen on July 15, 2009 @ 9:49 am

We spent the last few weeks fixing bugs on Windows, Mac, Ubuntu and Apple TV. We had some stability issues related to the Boxee Browser and audio-playback, which caused quite a few crashes. We also put some more work into our website, so if you login you’ll see a whole new dashboard (make sure to try out the find friends feature to see who of your contacts is already using Boxee).

You can download the latest version for all platforms here (if you’re on apple TV, then go to the menu and download the latest version).

The latest version includes the following new features:

Geo-based filtering of Apps - enables app developers to indicate in which countries the app works, so people who can’t access the content will not see it in the app box (the user can disable the filtering by going to Settings > Appearance > View options)

Adult content filter for Apps and RSS feeds - applications, RSS feeds and specific items can be marked as adult by the app developer. The user can control whether he’d like to see adult apps or not (default is hide adult content) by going to Settings > Appearance > View options.

List of unresolved videos - under browse there is now an option to view unresolved videos, there you will be able to view the latest video files boxee found on your home networks, but could not determine whether they are specific TV Shows or movies. You can use the “recognize” feature to try and manually tell boxee what this video is.

Squashed bugs:

  • Windows: crashes on ProjectM (still known issue with shutdown while playing music)
  • Windows: fullscreen toggle (still when going to windowed mode - the ratio is wrong and a user has to”drag” the window to fix it)
  • Windows: installer now removes obsolete dll-s in the flashplayer folder (those were crashing Flash playback when a user updated a previous install)
  • OS X: system’s screen saver was taking over with no way to remove it using the remote
  • Occasional deadlock when playing video and toggling between “now playing” screen and other screens
  • Occasional deadlock when starting to play something while something else is playing
  • When adding a feed default to “rss://” if nothing was specified
  • Python apps and scripts could corrupt one another while running in parallel (example: lyrics when playing from pandora)
  • Crashes, hangs and mem-leaks on image loading

Last, but not least there is a new support section on the boxee website, with FAQ, how-to and a growing knowledge base.

and the winners are… Dev Challenge summary

general — avner ronen on June 24, 2009 @ 7:54 pm

(I apologize for the delayed post. Took an early flight back to NYC, and only got back online now.)

Last night’s Winners were:

Music:
People’s Choice - DropBoxee by Jon Steinberg
Judges’ Choice - We Are Hunted by Nick Dima

Photos:
People’s Choice - Facebook Photos by Junda Liu
Judges’ Choice - Facebook Photos by Junda Liu

Video:
People’s Choice - BBC Live by Ian Tweedie
Judges’ Choice - OpenCourseWare by Roshan Revankar

The Dev Challenge was a great success. Over 40 apps were submitted as part of the challenge. We were really excited to see some of the innovation and elaborate work that was involved. It is too bad we had only 2 winners in each category..

We are going to put more efforts into our API and working with developers. We are pleased to announce that Shawn Rieger (one of the founders of BoxeeHQ) is joining the Boxee team to fill exactly this purpose.

We had a great time at the event last night. The place was packed and there was a great vibe. Now we need to decide where we’re going to do the Beta Launch. Maybe in LA?

boxee for windows, moving up to the Major Leagues

general — avner ronen on June 23, 2009 @ 10:30 pm

We have a few exciting announcements today (which makes for our longest blog post ever).

#1 - Boxee for Windows
We are finally releasing a public alpha of boxee for Windows. We are looking forward to getting feedback from PC users, so we will be ready for beta later this year.

Boxee is now available for Windows, Mac and Ubuntu users, and our goal is to keep the 3 platforms in sync as we release updates and upgrades.

#2 - Major League Baseball

We are excited to announce a partnership with Major League Baseball (MLB.com) to offer MLB.TV Premium to boxee users.

MLB.TV Premium on boxee means you can now watch thousands of baseball games, live and on-demand in HD (where available). on top of that, MLB.TV Premium offers DVR functionality to pause and rewind a live game. MLB.com represents a big step for boxee as we hope this is the first of many different live sports offerings we can bring to you. We hope other sports follow MLB.com’s lead of giving fans a choice of how they enjoy watching their favorite teams….

#3 - New navigation layout

We have changed the navigation in boxee to be more streamlined. There is a clear separation between Internet and Local media, so it is clear where you can find your local media and where you can access apps like Netflix, MLB, Pandora, etc.

In the new version you will see:
Applications, which has all the Internet content.
Local Media, which lists all the media on the computer and the local network

#4 - Digg

Digg constantly drives traffic and conversations around the web. They are doing the same for video, and it seems like a perfect fit for a boxee experience.

Over the past few weeks we have been working with Digg to create a ‘Digg for TV’ experience, where you can see the most popular videos, as well as what is up and coming.

A future release will also enable users to Digg stuff directly from boxee.

#5 - Tumblr

We love Tumblr at boxee. We thought enabling users to stream music and view slideshows from the people they are following on Tumblr would be a cool experience on boxee, so we worked with them to build it.

We will continue to work with the Tumblr team and you should expect more Tumblr features on boxee soon.

#6 - current_

Current works with a young adult audience to create and distribute great content that is relevant, informative and inspiring. They use a two-way approach to media, and combine Citizen Journalism and viewer participation with professional, rich content to create a unique viewing experience.

We think it’s a great fit for Boxee. The Current app includes the participatory movie review show (The Rotten Tomatoes Show), the weekly media-focused variety show (infoMania), the original documentary series (Vanguard), and the half-hour animated series (SuperNews).

#7 - 1080p for Ubuntu running Nvidia
Great news for users of boxee on Ubuntu. If you have Nvidia that supports VDPAU you will now be able to play HD videos (up to 1080p) utilizing Nvidia’s hardware acceleration for H264, MPEG2 and VC1.

#8 - bug fixes
Like with every new version we are trying to make progress on stability and performance. In this release we have made changes to almost every piece of code we have. Hopefully fixing more bug than creating new ones..

Major Changes with this Version Since Public Release

  • Improved playback of Internet streams.
  • Introduced VDPAU hardware acceleration on nVIDIA GPUs under Linux (major kudos to Team XBMC for this one).
  • Fixed M4A and M4V playback support.
  • Fixed low volume during video playback under Mac OSX and AppleTV.
  • Performance improvement and lower CPU usage under Mac OSX.
  • Enhanced codec support, improving overall playback of all media.
  • Improved DVD playback.
  • Official Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jacklope support.
  • PulseAudio support under Linux (shaky, but works).
  • MP3 files indexed based on id3 tags.
More Changes with this Version
  • Sorting ignores “The” at the beginning of a movie title.
  • Fixed uploading avatar at http://app.boxee.tv.
  • Improved slideshow controls in pictures.
  • Fixed avatars, first name, last name not updating in login screen.
  • CNN application displays runtime and date/time published for each item.
  • Selecting a Screensaver Slideshow Folder no longer causes a hang.
  • Empty Settings Pictures Library tab.
  • No longer show password when adding SMB source.
  • Fixed crash when setting Interlaced Handling to Deinterlace.
  • Fixed default download path under Download > Settings (Linux).
  • Fixed some Internet videos failure due to “Error creating demuxer”.
  • Fixed fast forward and rewind not working from MCE remote.
  • Fixed click on Read More or Settings from OSD causes Boxee to freeze.
  • Fixed case of Flickr contact getting deleted unexpectedly.
  • Fixed changing the weather location not converting the number.
  • Fixed pasting a long URL into new feed dialog exceeding the dialog boundaries.
  • Fixed Screensaver Preview crashes.
  • Fixed Windows clipboard for other applications stops to responding after a paste in keyboard dialog.
  • Fixed ability to change the visualization preset when playing a song.
  • Fixed Jamendo application showing release date as 1970-01-01
  • Fixed missing mouse cursor on Boxee startup.
  • Fixed missing OSD buttons when playing a video from Browse menu
  • Fixed case of multiple instance of Boxee running
  • Fixed first attempt to Add Contact under Flickr and Picasa failing with script error
  • Fixed skip or stop playing an Apple Trailer causing a crash
  • and several more…
Not Supported

  • 64bit platforms are not officially supported.
  • Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 is no longer officially supported.
  • Microsoft default OpenGL driver is not supported, download proper driver from your respective hardware vendor, e.g. http://www.intel.comhttp://www.nvidia.comhttp://ati.amd.com.
  • Power PC (PPC) not supported.

P.S.
A note about the use of proper Upper/Lower case in this blog post: As part of our effort to make Boxee more friendly for the mainstream consumer (and frankly to stop the angry emails i keep receiving from the grammar police) we are abandoning the only corporate policy we ever had: lowercase only.

live stream of tonight’s boxee event in SF

general — avner ronen on June 23, 2009 @ 3:07 pm

thanks to our friends at justin.tv we have a live stream of tonight’s event in SF.

doors will open at 6pm PT.
the live broadcast will start at 7pm PT.

vote for your favorite apps, RSVP for the boxee event in SF

general — avner ronen on June 15, 2009 @ 11:59 pm

the dev challenge has produced some great apps in each of the categories. this is very exciting. the voting is now open (the polls will close on June 22nd at 11:59pm PT).

winners will be announced at our event in San Francisco on June 23rd (7pm at the Mezzanine). the host for the evening will be Veronica Belmont! for those of you who can’t join us in person there is going to be a live stream of the event courtesy of Justin.tv

the People’s Choice Award in each category will receive a Drobo + 4TB from Seagate

the Judge’s Choice Award (Veronica Belmont, Chris Pirillo, Cali Lewis) in each category will receive a Sony Bravia XBR9 46″

during the event we will also launch (finally) our Windows version, announce new partnerships and share more info about the boxee beta

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