Joost to toss its standalone console for a browser plug-in

Facing growing competition in the online TV space, the well-funded brainchild of Skype's co-founders will now transition its development efforts away from an interactive console, and towards something like a conventional media player.

Joost, the online TV start-up launched by Skype's two co-founders, has now decided its drop its long-time P2P desktop client project in favor of writing a plug-in to standard Web browsers. BetaNews has learned the company recently sent out an e-mail to "a small group of trusted Joost users" asking them to try out a "new version" of its software.

"A lot of the changes we've made to Joost are based on feedback from people like you," the letter said.

In a written statement this week, a Joost spokesperson said that under its new approach, "Video plays directly in the browser as opposed to a separate piece of software." She added that "there are more tools available [in a browser] to find videos you'll want to watch."

Reportedly, Joost's plug-in will be based on the P2P technology the start-up had been developing for its software -- and unlike some rivals, Joost will not use Adobe Flash.

Rolled out several months ago with $45 million in blue chip funding, Joost has run into some negative reviews, difficulties in obtaining fresh content, and increasing competition from Hulu and other emerging players in the online streaming and video-on-demand (VoD) arenas.

As FileForum tester aszure recently wrote, "This program is in serious need for a redesign. I have used the last few versions over the last year, and I like the program a lot. In fact, I even rigged it on my htpc so I can watch on the TV and control via my remote control. However, just as many have said, its bloated, it sucks your bandwidth and so on. Could be worlds better."

Originally based in Europe, the start-up has since reorganized, rewritten its business plan, reduced its workforce, and moved to the US.

In mid-March, Nimbus put out a series of press releases announcing plans to work with Joost on distributing Internet clips of Premiere League soccer games to the Indian subcontinent, Hong Kong, Japan, and places like "the Middle East, North Africa, Brazil, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, New Zealand and Oceania." And in July, Joost started a joint venture with China's TOM Group to deliver its video services to that country.

Established by Skype co-founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, Joost has drawn hefty funding from CBS, Viacom, and venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures.

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