Flex Your Plex

2010-08-30_2234There is a big event coming soon that has to do with Apple and TV’s, and the unveiling is just hours away now. No, it’s not Apple’s music/media event with an anticipated new iTV device, it is the release at midnight August 31 of the new Plex Media Center. I’m a long way from Media Center 1.0, and have long since given up on Windows based home theater PC’s. I have been using a Mac Mini for over a year now and have used different media center software like Front Row (which comes with Macs, but is limited), and for a while, Boxee. But, I found that Boxee was just too clunky. I discovered Plex and liked it. It was updated a couple times and I liked it even more. It was missing a good media manager feature (which most media center software is missing). Back in May there was a sneak peak at code name Alexandria with…media management. Three and a half months later, it’s ready to go.

Now, they call it Plex/Nine, but it is actually version 0.9, so it’s still beta software. I do use it often and it’s the least frustrating media center software I’ve used. So besides media management, what do you get? First, it will read all of your movie files. That includes all my Handbrake ripped movies as well as the “raw” DVD rips of my video library. It seamlessly merges both types of files from a single directory and gives you a clean, attractive interface to view your collection. You also get the ability to watch your Netflix Instant Watch queue, view your Flickr photos, view YouTube videos, play your iTunes music, videos, and podcasts, along with many more services. It even plays my old catalog of DivX videos.

So the anticipation is killing me. I do have some anticipation for the Apple TV device and will be curious if they deliver a $99 device that has similar capabilities to Plex. I find it interesting where we are in computer history. We still have the HTPC/Media Center PC and then several set-top box media devices such as the Apple TV, Roku, Popbox, the Western Digital TV Media Players, and many more. It is similar to the market for traditional desktop/laptops and tablet(iPad)/netbooks. What’s going to be the best combination of features? The appified box (will Apple TV be iOS 4? Seems almost certain) vs. the full on OS box. To me the iPad et. al., and the iTV et. al. are just new markets in the computer world. How it all shakes out will be interesting. It definitely needs a good shake.


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