Software creator Boxee announced the launch of its new dedicated hardware device aptly named the The Boxee Box. Designed by Astro Studios and built by D-Link, maker of networking equipment, the device is schedule to hit shelves sometime in the 2nd quarter of 2010 for around $200 in the US.

Competitively priced against the AppleTV, The Boxee Box includes: one HDMI port, an SD card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, Wi-Fi, and an Ethernet jack, while supporting video content from a variety of online sources such as TED, Stanford,, Kid Mango, Next New Networks and more.

There is still no word, however, on the internal hardware powering the device or if the device will be sold outside of the US market.

In conjunction with the hardware announcement, Boxee also demoed significant improvements to its popular media software with the launch of Boxee Beta.

Aesthetically, much of the old display has been overhauled including the home screen, which the company says was done to make navigation to favourite content even easier.

Now the services main menu is displayed prominently across the top of home screen as opposed to the side.

In addition features like the feed, queue, and recommendations from friends on Boxee, Facebook or Twitter (Feed), or Boxee’s staff and partners (Featured) are shown in columns on the bottom half of the screen.

The TV and Movie library display were also drastically revamped to streamline the viewing process and make accessing content faster. Both local video content and online content are now listed together, allowing users to see their entire collection of content available to them all in one list. TV shows are now organised by season and episode, so it's easier to know what's been seen before. 

App installation and trials are now more straight forward as well, as is sharing what you're watching with friends on Boxee, and across popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to an underlying shift in the software's graphic library, the Boxee for Windows is apparently much faster and better equipped to handle 1080 video without overly taxing CPUs.

The company is hoping that the hardware specs and the beta software upgrades will fill many of the usability and integration holes left unaddressed by digital media products like the AppleTV, hopefully pushing the company's appeal beyond its current tech-savy fan base towards a more broader consumer audience. 

Official support was announced for Snow Leopard too, meaning new Mac owners or recent up-graders will no longer have to do without the convenient media software. However access to the beta will not be available to the public until 7 January where Boxee will make a further release announcement at CES. 

Currently, early access will only be rolled out to those on the list over the next 4 weeks, as well as to previous Alpha testers.