Boxee: Brilliant UI, shame about the business plan

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Boxee presented at Gnomedex this afternoon (video above) and there was hardly a person in the room who wasn’t completely wowed. For those not familiar with the product, Boxee is a media sharing platform targeted at the television, and will be available across multiple platforms (Mac/ Linux/ Windows). The focus of the product is the user interface, both visually and ease of use, and without doubt they’ve mastered both. I’m looking forward to getting into the Alpha program so I can use it myself. Also built in is social sharing and recommendations, so it’s media center 2.0 to some extent.

One small problem though: the business plan. The platform is open source to allow third party development, so they won’t be selling it. Direct sales, tie-ins with digital media providers like Amazon or doing it themselves, obvious ways to make money from something like this, no, not that either. Instead they’re pursuing what I can only describe as an affiliate/ Adsense style strategy. They called it the Firefox (Mozilla) business plan, where they get a cut of the ads shown on recommended services. Nice idea at the small scale, and it works well with Firefox because of the serious dollars involved in search advertising, but to expect a cut from providers such as Hulu from pre-rolls on video in a market where the monetization of online video is still a serious challenge…well lets just say it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

Having said that though, I really do hope it works out for them. I can still like a product and hope it goes well even if the business plan was written by a 14 year old with a Blogspot blog who thinks Adsense is where it’s at :-)