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ZeeVee's new Zinc beta takes on Boxee

Emphasizing the company's shift from hardware to software, the Zinc browser aims to make it easy to access online video sources--just like Boxee.

ZeeVee Zinc screenshot
Screenshot by John Falcone/CNET

ZeeVee has released the latest beta version of its Zinc "Internet video browser." Beta 3 of Zinc adds access to Netflix (for subscribers) and CBS (the parent company of CNET), in addition to such online video stalwarts as Hulu, ABC, YouTube, and the like. For now, Zinc is a free download for Windows PCs, though ZeeVee pledges that a Mac version is in development.

Zinc is an offshoot of the ZViewer software that was originally developed for ZeeVee's ZvBox Zv-100. We reviewed that product back in the autumn of 2008, and found it to be overly convoluted and complex--but our problems were largely limited to the hardware. By focusing on the software aspect of its product, ZeeVee is aligning itself as a competitor to Boxee. But since Zinc is just a meta-browser--aggregating already available online video into a more easy-to-access package, but keeping it on the PC--it might even sidestep some of the problems Boxee's encountered with its unauthorized Apple TV version.

We ended our review of the ZvBox--which was then retailing for $500--by suggesting that users "might as well just get an entry-level PC [...] and connect it directly to your TV. Pair it with a good wireless keyboard like the Logitech diNovo Mini, and you've got sofa-based access to the entire panoply of Web-based video on your living room HDTV--for roughly the same overall price." While ZeeVee is still offering hardware such as the high-end ZvPro 2500, this focus on software is, in my opinion, a smarter way to go. If Zinc really delivers, users will figure out a way to enjoy it on their big-screen TV. Plenty of enterprising folks are already doing just that.

The Zinc beta is available for download at ZeeVee's site.