Plex Media Center blows us away with App Store

Media Centers on the Mac have been pretty hit or miss so far.  We’ve been playing with a few of them, along with Front Row and nothing has been really "sticky".  One we’re a huge fan of is open source Plex. It has been improving incrementally for the past year since it branched off from XBMC and basically does everything Apple’s Front Row does, but better.  You can use an Apple remote or there’s built-in support for Harmony remotes.  Plus it does a bunch of other interesting stuff like play 1080P movies in formats other than MP4 and MOV, streams weather information to your media center Mac, and it is skinnable.

But then something amazing happened.

Over the weekend we hit the 0.7.8 Beta version and ..erm.. Boom!  They now have an App store!  These apps bring together a lot of what you’d want in a media center.  Obviously, you want to pick up Hulu, CNN, CBS Sports, Youtube, FFFound..the list goes on and on.  They currently have 20 apps but expect us to "be amazed by some of the ones we’re working on behind the scenes."   The good news doesn’t stop there.  This is an open market so developers can create their own apps – just like the iPhone App Store.  They are being open to other app repositories as well.  It has really turned into a platform within a platform.

This is it. Download it now.

Like Bill Joy (below) said about Google, this is an application in this space that has that certain thing needed to be successful.  It actually really works.  It can replace your TV tuner and your optical disc collection.  Give it a try (download link).  Tell us what you think.  Videos and blog clipping below:



I’d like to introduce you to the new Plex Media Server:

Very nice, right? Alexis did an awesome job with the icon. (It also looks a bit like the new Mac Mini, the one with 36 USB ports all around the circular case, but that’s another story.)
So what’s so special about the new Plex Media Server? Well, it connects with the brand new Plex App Store (built by Jon Maddox, the latest talented developer to join our group). The Plex App Store serves plug-ins which are downloaded by the Plex Media Server, and provide a huge amount of online content to Plex.
What content and which sites? Great question. Let’s just say that you won’t be disappointed by the 20 plug-ins that are currently available from the App Store (most of them written by Scott, and the rest by Isaac, James, and myself), and you’ll also be amazed by some of the ones we’re working on behind the scenes.
There is also great news for developers: writing these plug-ins is amazingly easy. James has done a simply fantastic job writing a Python framework to develop the plug-ins with, and the Plex Media Server provides an easy, XML-based method to display Flash or Silverlight content to Plex. Almost none of the plug-ins are over 100 lines of code, and many are 20-40 lines. We’ll be following this release with lots of technical discussion of the framework, and top-notch documentation.
The plug-ins live in the Plex Media Server’s application support area, and the App Store itself is just another plug-in. The App Store plug-in can browse and install plug-ins, as well as update itself and installed plug-ins with ease, meaning that you’ll always be up to date.
I’ve leave you with three screencasts that Jon Maddox was kind enough to put together, which demo some of the new functionality. Seeing as this is the initial release, expect some glitches, and there are some known issues of which you should be aware (PLEASE READ THESE):
  • There is no support for authentication yet, so certain content or features which require being logged in are not available (e.g. Hulu videos that require you being logged in).
  • You need to make sure you have the Flash plug-in installed for Safari, and you must make sure you don’t have any plug-ins like Safari Adblock installed (possibly Pith helmet as well).
  • You may want to increase your cache settings, as plug-ins like Apple Movie Trailers, TED Talks, and other, stream video in high quality HD video.
  • We have added quite a few new skin features and fixed some bugs in MediaStream, so your mileage in any other skin WILL vary greatly.
  • If a Flash video is unavailable online, Plex will not detect this, and will stall while buffering.

These items will all fixed shortly.

Without further ado, the screencasts, the download, and the source:

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