The long-awaited Boxee Box, designed to give users access to streaming content from their living room, has finally materialised - and hardware partner D-Link has confirmed that it's coming to the UK.
Originally demonstrated at CES in January and reported to use Nvidia's Tegra 2 platform, D-Link has made an interesting, although understandable, choice to switch platforms at this late stage to Intel's Atom CE4100 - a system-on-a-chip implementation specifically designed for TV and Internet integration, and the same platform as powers many planned Google TV set-top boxes.
D-Link claims the move to Atom gives the Boxee Box the power it needs to playback full-HD 1080p video over either in-built wired or Wireless N networking. As is increasingly common, however, the Boxee Box won't be concentrating purely on streaming media - instead offering companies the chance to create their own 'apps' and become part of the Boxee ecosystem, in much the same way as Apple's App Store or Google's Android Market.
Speaking about his company's partnership with D-Link to produce the Boxee Box hardware, marketing vice president Andrew Kippen stated that "we've partnered with D-Link to come up with what we believe is the best way to enjoy the best content from the Internet on a TV – no PC required."
The hardware is, it must be said, a pretty neat bit of kit: while the boxy design might put some people off, it has a futuristic air about it - and the hardware inside isn't to be sniffed at, either. As well as the Intel Atom CE4100 SoC processor, the Boxee Box features an HDMI port, digital optical and analogue stereo audio outputs, integral wired and 802.11n wireless connectivity, two USB ports and an SD card slot.
The remote is worth an extra mention: featuring a dual-sided design, the controller provides both a fairly standard media remote and a full QWERTY pad for text entry in a single compact unit. Free apps for most major smartphones are also available, allowing full remote control from your touch-screen device.
D-Link claims that it is providing the Boxee Box with the most comprehensive codec support of any media player yet released, with Adobe's Flash 10.1 included as standard as well as H.264, DivX, and MP3 support.
Boxee already has some pretty big names signed up to provide content for the Box - the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and MTV are all present and correct, as are CNN, CNET, Last.fm, Comedy Central, and Facebook. Youtube, Flickr, and Picasa will also provide web-content streaming to the platform.
The only question that remains is whether relative unknown Boxee can compete with the household name that is Google when it comes to winning consumers' hearts and minds. An innovative interface will get you so far, but name recognition is - as always - the key to sales.
The Boxee Box will be available for pre-ordering on the 'net, with a scheduled mid-November shipping date and an estimated retail price of £199.