Boxee has quietly moved its long awaited Beta release onto its public download site. The new version of this free Internet — and local — A/V-streaming player currently supports PCs running Mac OS X, Windows XP, and Ubuntu OSes, with an Apple TV version coming soon.
One of the most noticeable changes is the completely redesigned homescreen and “global menu.” I was never a fan of the Boxee Alpha homescreen’s extreme emphasis on social networking data. In the Alpha, playing a desired video — even if you knew exactly where to find it — took a minimum of about eight clicks.
In contrast, the Beta’s homescreen and “global menu” now provide direct links to helpful resources, local and online content, and “favorite” apps front and center in the user experience. The result? Now you can move directly to desired content with three or four clicks from startup.
Redesigned home screen and new global menu
(Click each to enlarge)
Another significant enhancement is that the Beta now treats online (streaming) and local media equivalently, so you can locate and play either type of media from the same search function. Additionally, the search function makes it easy to locate specific shows or titles without having to scan long lists of movie or television show titles. Just search, select, play.
For Windows users, the Boxee Beta’s most exciting enhancement is the availability of — at long last — a fully functional Netflix instant-downloads player function. Linux users, however, remain without this capability due to Linux’s lack of Microsoft Silverlight’s DRM support, despite progress in the Moonlight project.
Below are several screenshots of the Boxee Beta’s movies, videos, queue, and apps selection screens:
(Click each image to enlarge)
When he demonstrated the Boxee Beta in New York last month, Boxee CE Aver Ronen explained that in addition to the numerous visible enhancements, many changes also were made beneath the surface. Ronen said these included:
- Bug fixes
- Performance improvements
- Official support for OS X “Snow Leopard” and Ubuntu “Karmic”
- New apps — including Neflix streaming support on Windows
Finally, Ronen noted that with the Beta release, Boxee’s graphical engine has migrated from from OpenGL to DirectX, allowing it to take advantage of Direct X video acceleration. In that regard, a collaboration with Nvidia allows the silicon vendor’s ION platform to offload video processing with DXVA and Flash 10.1. The net result of this, Ronen said, is that “there is now a long list of affordable Windows-based devices that can turn into a kick-ass media center (e.g. Acer Revo, Dell Zino, HP Mini).”
To snag your own free copy of Boxee Beta, go here.
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