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PSFK Talks To Avner Ronen, Boxee Founder

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This article originally appeared on PSFK.com.
After featuring Boxee on PSFK recently, we were invited to meet the founder to find out more about their media-center software. In a way, Boxee is a browser of multimedia content that can work on your computer or through your AppleTV. Through Boxee you can watch TV, play music and view image content that's available on the web or on your hard drive or home network.

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Since its launch in mid-2008 over 300,000 people have registered for the service and hundreds of developers are manipulating the open-source code to develop the system further. We talked to founder Avner Ronen about his motivations behind the development of this service and why the TV and film industries need to pay attention to this type of technology - fast.

Why Boxee?

Boxee was created out of the frustration of getting media through our TVs. For years we've had Windows Media Centers, TIVO and Apple Front Row but none of them seemed to work very well. Apple and Microsoft have seemed to neglect this space so we decided to make a "Firefox play" where we wanted to create a great open product with a focus on the user, not the system. We engage the community because we know that we don't have a monopoly on good ideas.

How would you describe Boxee?

It's a browser - a media browser. We display content that can be found on the internet - but presented with a remote-control wielding user in mind. This is for the lean back experience in your living room or bedroom through your big screen. It's a different mindset and you have to approach this differently than website design.

The system also allows the user to access any of their own personal content. iTunes is a great system but if you want to play non-iTunes content (e.g. DivX films) then you can't use it. We thought we could do a better job. boxee lets people access their content on their at-home computer systems and the web. People want to mix their mp3 collection with LastFM and ripped video.

We've been playing with Boxee on the AppleTV system. Once you make the leap (of working out how to hack it) we found it to be a great system.

This is an example of where the community helped us. A couple of users took the code and adjusted it to the Mac OS system the AppleTV has and then offered a hack for AppleTV owners to download. Boxee is not optimized for AppleTV but nevertheless over 100,000 users have downloaded the software.

You have referred to people's home television sets as a Big Screen. Isn't that a term we used to use for cinema screens?

The TV is the largest screen we have an intimate relationship with - as opposed to a mobile screen.

You stream the content providers ads and there is no obvious commerce or advertising play. What is the business model?

We want to matter. We are going to focus on improving the product and growing the user base. Then we can associate content with retail partners and gain a commission through affiliate and other deals. We are also going to license our software to devices. We should be making revenues from licensing by 2010.

To continue reading this interview, please go to PSFK.com.

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