Boxee adds Netflix movie downloads

Last updated Dec 4, 2008 — 35764 views

Boxee announced today that it is adding Netflix video downloads — including the ability to browse Netflix’s media library from within Boxee — to its A/V media center platform for Linux, Mac, and (soon) Windows PCs.

Update on April 26, 2010:
Netflix video streaming still not supported on the Linux version of Boxee

Unfortunately (as some of the comments at the bottom of this blog post note), Boxee still has not added Netflix support to the Linux version of the Boxee multimedia platform, even though Netflix ran on Linux on the Roku player set-top box two years ago. Boxee says the delay is due to the fact that Netflix’s implementation of its video streaming service for desktop PCs depends on the DRM support in Microsoft Silverlight, and the Moonlight project (a Silverlight workalike) currently does not satisfy this requirement. In short, Boxee’s position is that when Netflix supports video streaming to Linux desktops, Boxee will add Netflix’s video streaming support to Linux version of Boxee Linux.

Interestingly, most TV set-top boxes (and TV’s with built-in video streaming support) — including the Roku Roku Player STB, the upcoming D-Link DM-380 Boxee Box, the upcoming Syabas PopBox STB, and others — run an embedded Linux OS yet provide Netflix video streaming. How? The answer lies in their non-x86 processors’ on-chip sophisticated DRM hardware.

In the mean time, two methods commonly used to accomplish Netflix streaming on Linux PCs are:

  • Create a Windows XP virtual machine on VirtualBox (etc.) and run Netflix via a browser there
  • Install PlayOn on a Windows PC and run Netflix streaming on a Linux PC via PlayOn’s DLNA/UPnP streaming service

In DeviceGuru’s case, we grudgingly resorted to migrating our DIY Boxee Box to Vista, in order to enjoy Netflix’s video streaming service on our home theater 🙁

Although Netflix instant video downloads have been available for quite a while on Windows and Mac desktops, this upcoming Boxee enhancement will mark the first time Netflix instant downloads are available to users of desktop PCs running Linux.

Introducing Boxee

I’ve been alpha-testing Boxee’s media center platform on my Ubuntu-based Black Tower desktop PC for several months now. Boxee is great for streaming movies and TV episodes from Comedy Central, Youtube, Hulu, etc., and for enjoying A/V content located on your PC or other local source.

A few screenshots showing Boxee running on the Black Tower, which currently runs Ubuntu 8.10, appear below.

Boxee on the Black Tower
(Click each thumbnail for a larger view)

Boxee on the Black Tower
(Click each thumbnail for a larger view)

Boxee’s Netflix support

Here, courtesy of Boxee, are some screenshots of Netflix running on the new version of Boxee (click each image for a larger view):

Searching for Netflix titles
(Click to enlarge)

Viewing your Netflix VOD queue
(Click to enlarge)

Netflix item description
(Click to enlarge)

Boxee as an A/V STB framework?

Boxee’s user interface (UI) is both clean and intuitive, and satisfies the 10-foot UI experience requirements of family-room multimedia access set-top boxes (STBs). These capabilities, along with its compatibility with Linux, make Boxee an attractive A/V UI framework candidate for Internet-enabled STBs such as Roku’s (depicted at right) and Syabas’s devices.

However, one feature Boxee lacked was support for one or more well-stocked video-on-demand (VOD) services, such as those offered by Netflix, Amazon, and Blockbuster. Thankfully, Boxee’s new Netflix instant-downloads support starts to fill that gap, and other VOD services can be expected to be added in the future.


Boxee provides its eponymously-named media center software as a free download, and there are no monthly fees for its use.

At this time, the software is only available in alpha form, by request. Sign up on the company’s website and then expect an invitation to download the software within a few weeks. Boxee versions are currently available for Ubuntu Linux, Mac OS X, and AppleTV, and a version for Windows is due out later this month.

As mentioned above, the new Netflix VOD support reportedly is already released for Mac OS X, and is expected to be available for Ubuntu Linux “early next year,” according to a source on the Boxee team. Presumably it will also be included in the soon-to-be-released Windows version.

In an email correspondence, Boxee said support for Netflix instant-downloads on the AppleTV version of Boxee “is our #1 priority right now as we’re working to overcome the hardware limitations of the AppleTV.” That begs the question: would Steve Jobs really tolerate such an assault on Apple’s pay-per-view revenue stream?

Visit Boxee’s website for more details.

10 responses to “Boxee adds Netflix movie downloads”

  1. kb0hae says:

    Nothing to see here, move along! Serioiusly, let us know when Netflix customers who run Linux will be able to view content in Firefox/Iecweasel/opera, or any other browser. Until then, I don’t want to hear about a $99.00 box that I would have to buy. Thes is definitly a non-story!

  2. jae says:

    @kb0hae, boxee is an app that runs on Ubuntu Linux powered by XBMC. I’m not sure why the author decided to confuse the issue by talking about Roku. Boxee is not related to Roku. It isn’t firefox, but maybe even better!

  3. Carl says:

    Well, it is good, but it would be better if it was Firefox instead of Boxee. Pretty much all Linux users have Firefox, but this will only support Ubuntu when it is finally released (I run Ubuntu and even I want it available on all Linux boxes). Boxee is pretty nice, but it still has the occasional quirk (I just had it fail to save some of my settings a few minutes ago for example). At this point I sure wouldn’t pay for it, not without exclusive content or something. It isn’t that hard to just go the sites and find the video you want. A bit of a pain if you watch a few different networks, sure, but doable.

  4. Carl says:

    FYI; it is spelled “XBMC” not XMBC (as it used to be short for “XBox Media Center” but they recently renamed it to “XBMC Media Center” since it went cross-platform).

    Note also that Netflix in Boxee only works on the Mac version so far. Netflix is not yet available in the Linux nor the Apple TV versions, and the Windows version is not available to the public at all as of yet.

  5. Adde says:

    Netflix is not available in the Linux version of Boxee according to the announcement, see:

  6. Bill Petro says:

    I’ve got Boxee/XBMC on my AppleTV, but have not seen NetFlix in the latest version. When it does appear it could be a game changer: no additional box to buy (if you consider the AppleTV a sunk cost already). My wife would not watch NetFlix on my iMac, this is a job for the “10 foot rule” — the TV.

  7. sanbo says:

    it great ,i will test it Boxee lacked was abutment for one or added abounding video-on-demand (VOD) services, such as those offered by Netflix, Amazon, and Blockbuster.

  8. Anonymous says:


  9. deviceguru says:

    @Anonymous: Actually, this article reports (correctly) that Boxee said they plan to add Netflix support for Linux “early next year…” Unfortunately it’s taking a lot longer than Boxee had expected, presumably due to the fact that Silverlight (or a Silverlight lookalike) isn’t available for Linux yet.

  10. Ian MacGregor says:

    Here it is, quite q while after this article first went “live” and Boxee still does not support neflix on Linux: