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Netflix coming to Linux desktops?
Dec. 09, 2008

An alpha-stage "social" media center distribution is bringing Netflix video downloads to Linux desktops for the first time, says an industry blog. The Boxee software offers a unified gateway to a variety of social and media networking services, says Boxee.

(Click for larger view of Boxee interface)

Earlier this week, LinuxDevices took a brief look at the Linux-compatible Boxee distro, conjecturing that the new Asus B204 and B206 home-theater versions of the company's Eee Box nettops might make a suitable home for the distribution. Now DeviceGuru, which has been evaluating an alpha version, reports that the latest Boxee release supports Netflix video downloads, and even lets users browse Netflix's media library from within Boxee, something owners of Roku's Netflix box can't do, (at least not with currently available firmware).

Roku's Netflix Player
(Click for details)

As the blog notes, Netflix users have been able to stream the subscription service's videos onto Windows for some time, while Macintosh desktops gained support within the last few weeks. However, the capability has never before been available for Linux desktops. A Mac OS X version of the Netflix release is available now, and an Ubuntu Linux version will be ready early next year, says DeviceGuru

Boxee lets users play and share media from computers and other devices across a home network, says the company. The distribution is said to stream content from various free and commercial Internet sources, or download videos, music, and photos from the Internet. Based on the XMBC Media Center open-source project, Boxee is currently in alpha stage on Ubuntu Linux and Mac OS X platforms. It has been recently ported to the Apple TV 2.3, and a Windows version is in the works.

Earlier this year, Roku shipped an embedded Linux set-top box (STB) called the Netflix Player that lets users download videos directly. More recently, Blockbuster came out with its own Linux-equipped STB, based on 2Wire's MediaPoint design, and aimed exclusively at streaming on-demand videos.

Meanwhile, an industry report has stated that the "Moonlight" open source project plans to introduce Netflix playback capabilities in its Linux playback software. Developed as an offshoot of the Novell-sponsored Mono project, the Moonlight project is cloning Microsoft's Silverlight media player technology to Linux.

Netflix support should be available on Windows and Mac versions of Silverlight by the end of the year. It could show up on Moonlight early next year, when Moonlight 1.0 arrives (the first beta version of Moonlight was posted last week). Or, it could rely on features in Moonlight 2.0, scheduled for later in the year.


Boxee is available in alpha stage for Ubuntu Linux, but new users may have to wait several weeks, the Boxee site warns. The latest Netflix-enabled release is expected to be available in early 2009. More information can be found at the Boxee site, here.

The DeviceGuru blog on Boxee, complete with numerous screenshots of Boxee in action, should be here.

-- Eric Brown

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