Boxee: Open Source Connected TV

One of the clear trends at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show is the proliferation of ways to get Internet-based content onto your TV. But I’ve seen only one system that’s free (as in both speech and beer) and doesn’t seem to restrict where you get content: Boxee.

The current version of Boxee runs on Intel-based Macs, Apple TV and Linux machines (it works particularly easily on Ubuntu distributions). A Windows version should be ready soon, according to a Boxee spokesman. Connect any of those boxes to your TV and you’ve got a pretty powerful entertainment aggregator.

Boxee will play the music and movies you have on your own hard drive. But it will also play content from services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Shoutcast, Last.fm, Flickr, Picasa, CNN and lots more. It’ll pull in video podcasts and if you want a podcast Boxee doesn’t offer, you simply add the URL of the feed.

You access all this content through an attractive and fairly intuitive interface designed for being navigated with a remote from the couch.

The last part of the package could turn out to be the most powerful. You can share what you’re watching with other Boxee users and they can share their viewing habits – and recommendations – with you. As more and more video and music becomes freely available on the Web, those kinds of recommendations from people you trust could become a great way to find the best of the avalanche of content.

Check out the rest of our CES coverage.

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