The End of Boxee on the Desktop & What to Use Instead

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boxee alternativeBoxee fans – it’s over. There may be more fun to have with the Boxee Box, but Boxee on the desktop isn’t coming back. It’s time to find something else if you have a computer hooked up to your television.

We should have seen it coming. There was an entire year between updates for desktop users, during which things continued to break. Certain shows stopped working, apps slowed down or broke entirely and new features appeared only on the Boxee Box. We put up with it. We loved Boxee, and wanted it to keep growing the way it did back in 2009 and 2010. We watched some shows in our browser, and used NaviX to fill in the gaps. Apps still worked, for the most part, and local playback was still decent.

During the summer of 2011 we were told we’d get an update in autumn. Months went by, autumn wound down; Boxee users grew impatient. Then, right around Christmas, Boxee released a new, bug-ridden version for Linux, Mac and Windows only to also announce this was the final desktop version ever to be released: developers will from now on focus only on the Boxee Box and software for other set-top devices.

This makes sense. Boxee is a small company, and can’t spend money developing its program for every platform under the sun. Other than consumer devices Boxee doesn’t have much of a revenue stream, and millions of dollars in venture capital means Boxee needs to be profitable, soon.

So the desktop version’s decline was inevitable. Still, a total lack of updates leaves me feeling betrayed. I, and the large number of Boxee early adopters, sincerely felt like we were part of the team. We tested the software, provided feedback and helped promote the platform. Boxee kept releasing clever hacks to keep Hulu working for free, and promised they would always do that.

Those days are long gone, and it’s time for all desktop Boxee users to buy a box or find a new home.

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Story Of A Boxee User

I’m what you might call a Boxee fanboy. I’ve been using the program since its alpha release, and spent a great deal of time telling my friends and family they should be using it instead of cable. I wrote an excessively glowing review of Boxee’s beta back in early 2010, and a series of follow-up articles after that. Boxee was the recreational program I used more than anything else.

If anyone should be excited about the current release of Boxee, it’s me. I’ve forgiven its shortcomings many times, looking back, because I always believed things would keep getting better.

boxee alternative

Not this time. The 1.5 release of Boxee for the desktop is buggy and frustrating. Most of the online shows I tried to watch didn’t work or didn’t launch in full screen. Support for Netflix, Hulu and more are dropped from the desktop version, meaning I need to turn to NaviX to watch many movies and shows. And a variety of apps simply don’t work any more.

I could say more, but it’s all been said in the Boxee forum, where users are openly discussing what program to switch to. None of these bugs would be a huge problem if updates were coming. The problem is they’re not. So it’s time to find something new.

Why Not Buy A Box?

boxee end-of-tv

So why don’t I support the program I love by buying a Boxee Box? Because I have a computer hooked up to my TV, which I use for a lot more than just media. I play games on it with a couple of joysticks, share files from it to my other computers and use it to test lots of different software.

Why not add a Boxee Box as well? Because I don’t want to take up more space with an unnecessary device. I’d be more than happy to pay for the privilege to use Boxee on my computer, and I think I’m not alone. At it’s best, Boxee worked better than anything out there. But I don’t want another device cluttering up my living room.

Boxee claims people like me are around for now, but won’t be for long: people are finding dedicated boxes to be better for the job. That may be the case. I get it. But if Boxee can’t support its desktop users anymore, how do I know they’ll keep supporting their box users? It’s not a completely fair question, but I can’t be the only person asking it.

What To Use Instead

boxee alternative

After seeing how awful the new Boxee is, last night I bit the bullet and installed XBMC. And I’m telling you: I should have done that months ago.I got my favorite plugins, Reddit TV and Navi X, working in no time. I found a plugin for streaming shows from CBS, NBC and all the major networks, and it works flawlessly in a way Boxee hasn’t for years.

Yes, it’s not as well organized. Yes, the interface is harder to use. But it works, and it’s actively being maintained. Check out XBMC or read our most recent review.

A program I want to check out, but haven’t yet, is Plex. Since our last review Plex was updated to run on Windows natively, and I can’t wait to try it out. Feel free to let me know your thoughts about Plex below.

Conclusion

The Boxee team said it all: “We would not be where we are today without you. But we can’t stay here.”

I understand the sentiment, but will miss Boxee. You did web video well before you needed to make money, and standing up to big companies and hacking to keep stuff working is what made that great. Oh well, there are lots of new programs to try out with lots of clever programmers.

Can you think of something else I need to play with? Give me your thoughts in the comments below, because this recovering Boxee user needs ideas. I’ll be hanging out with you guys below.

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