Boxee seen as threat to pay-TV services

The firm makes software to access multiple Internet video and music sites, and to bring them to a large monitors or television sets
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Boxee gives users a single interface to access a wide range of television shows.

A small 11-employee New York company called Boxee is making waves in the Internet TV market. The firm makes software to access multiple Internet video and music sites, and to bring them to a large monitors or television sets.

However, Boxee’s fans, reported the “New York Times” last week, see its big potential as a way to turn off those costly $100-a-month cable or satellite connections.

“Boxee has allowed me to replace cable with no remorse,” said Jef Holbrook, a 27-year-old actor in Columbus, GA, who recently downloaded the Boxee software to the $600 Mac Mini he has connected to his television. “Most people my age would like to just pay for the channels they want, but cable refuses to give us that option. Services like Boxee, that allow users choice, are the future of television.”

The software, which is free and available for download at www.boxee.tv, works on Mac and Linux computers, and on Apple’s set-top box, Apple TV. A version of Boxee for Windows PCs is being tested among a limited group of users.

Boxee gives users a single interface to access all the photos, video and music on their hard drives, along with a wide range of television shows, movies and songs from sites like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, CNN.com and CBS.com.

Unlike the increasingly long and convoluted channel directories on most cable and satellite systems, Boxee offers a well-organized directory, which can be navigated using the remote controls that now ship with most computers.

Avner Ronen, Boxee’s 33-year-old founder and chief executive, shared what he called his “politically incorrect” vision of how the Internet will upset the television business by giving viewers on-demand access to the array of Web content. “The challenge for the cable industry is how they grapple with the fact that this is in some way a substitution for some of the things they do,” Ronen told the “Times.”

Because Boxee is open source and can be modified and improved by any user or developer, it can move quickly to add new video or music sites to its service, or to tailor itself to other electronic devices. For example, three months ago, Web developers in North Carolina created a special program to allow people to put Boxee on their Apple TV boxes. The program has since been downloaded more than 100,000 times for that purpose.

Ronen said Boxee is giving TV viewers something they have long asked for: true access to Internet-style breadth and depth of content from their living room sofas. “The users and the technology will always move faster than the industry by definition,” Ronen said.