Boxee is holding an event in San Francisco tonight to declare a winner of its App Dev Challenge, in which third-parties created apps for the media platform. But the real winner tonight will be Boxee, which is also announcing a boatload of new features and functionality for its media center software — none bigger than a version of Boxee for Windows, finally.
While many developers go the other way, Boxee started as a Mac and Linux product first. But obviously, Windows PCs are the vast majority of the machines out there. “This is huge being able to serve the rest of the computer market,” Boxee CEO Avner Ronen tells us. And that’s undoubtedly an understatement, given the success Boxee has already had minus all those Windows users.
While this is just an alpha version of the product for Windows, it will be open for the public to use. And perhaps more importantly, it will work on machines with Windows Media Center, many of which are hooked up to televisions in living rooms. While Boxee is great on the computer, it’s arguably even better on a big screen television, many of which typically feature awful user interfaces. Boxee’s interface, on the other hand, is very nice. And that’s being revamped a bit as well tonight to make room for the other new features being launched.
The biggest of those is support for MLB.tv. This will mark the first time that Boxee users will have access to live content through the software. MLB.tv is a premium service that requires either a monthly or one-time fee, but it’s already very popular, and all those users can now access it through Boxee. Ronen notes that he hopes this is the first of many live experiences Boxee is able to offer, stating that other sporting deals are being talked about, as well as the possibility that live news could come someday.
Another addition is Digg video content. Everyday, tons of videos become popular through the social voting site, and now Boxee is giving users a way to see those through its software as well. In the future, you’ll be able to Digg items right from Boxee as well, we’re told.
Tumblr is another service Boxee is adding support for tonight. You’ll be able to stream music shared by people you follow on the blogging platform, as well as play picture slideshows.
And finally, Boxee is announcing a partnership with Current, to offer its news and entertainment programming.
All told, there are now well over 100 applications available for Boxee (something around 120, we’re told), so that’s why it needed to make some interface changes to accommodate all this new stuff. And the developer challenge apparently yielded a lot of interesting apps as well. Over 40 were submitted for the competition, including quite a few using the all-important Twitter.
I asked Ronen about the possibility of seeing Boxee create its own set-top box in the future, but he downplayed that. He feels Boxee’s strength lies in its open approach to developing for other pieces of hardware. And he hinted that by early next year, we should start to see some interesting partnerships involving Boxee and some living-room bound hardware devices.
As for Hulu, which Boxee has famously been battling with after it blocked its content from appearing on Boxee several months ago, Ronen says there are no new updates. But he hopes that the fact that Hulu has made its own desktop software, Hulu Desktop, signals that they are open to the idea of moving their content outside of the traditional browser and onto other services, like Boxee.
Ronen also defiantly notes that while Hulu isn’t playing ball, yet, plenty of other media providers are.
Finally, on the subject of mobile development, Ronen says that while they aren’t actively working on anything beyond its remote control iPhone app (which works with the Boxee software), a lot of people are asking about an actual iPhone app that will play Boxee content. “If we keep getting asked we just may do it,” Ronen notes.
With the Windows version now out there, Boxee plans to update all versions at the same time, with new content and features, we’re told. It’s getting to be a very robust media player.