As promised, social media startup Boxee yesterday revealed both the beta version of its software as well as the hardware partner that will be bundling it in a standalone device. Designed by Astro Studios and built by D-Link, the Boxee Box comes in the form of a rather eye-catching cube that appears to be sinking into the desktop, and is scheduled to hit U.S. store shelves sometime in the second quarter of 2010 for around $200.
The full technical specifications won't be announced until CES, where it has already won a "Best of Innovations" award, but looking at the pictures we can tell video comes out through an HDMI connector and users can pick either SPDIF optical or RCA analog for audio output. The device connects to the Internet through 802.11n Wi-Fi or Ethernet and can take expansion through an SD card slot on the front as well as two USB ports on the back.
In conjunction with the hardware announcement, Boxee also showed off a redesigned and much cleaner user interface as part of the new beta -- which is still in private testing. The service's main menu is now displayed prominently across the top of home screen as opposed to the side, and three separate columns directly below show recommendations and activity from Boxee friends, featured videos and your play queue.
There's also a new search feature which lets users find videos on Boxee and networked hard drives by typing into a single box. Last but not least, the company announced three new content partners: Escapist, Suicide Girls and TV Guide to the Web. Boxee Beta will be available to the general public on January 7th, 2010.