XBMC launched version 12.0 (codenamed Frodo) of its media center software today, bringing a ton of new features and opening up support to new platforms. As a longtime Plex user, this XBMC release looks to give me plenty of reason to change horses for my Mac mini media center needs. The release brings HT audio support, Live TV and PVR integration, 64bit support for the OS X version, and adds Raspberry Pi and Android as platforms that can run XBMC.
I’m a fan of XBMC, but I dropped it in favor of Plex (originally an offshoot of XBMC). I did that because of an effort to turn Plex into a centralized server that works with multiple clients across not only computers, but also iPads, iPhones and more, complete with remote streaming. But XBMC is clearly heading in a different direction, and one that might be better suited to those who want a truly robust home theater experience that can handle everything from a single living room computer. The new Live TV and PVR support are big additions to XBMC’s appeal in that regard.
The other exciting aspects of this launch are the new hardware platforms supported in this release, which include DIY computing platform Raspberry Pi and Android. A consumer Android version arrived in a “user friendly” pre-release build January 18, but now it’s officially out there. The best thing about XBMC arriving on both of these platforms is that it provides a stable grounding from which third-parties can build functional home theater boxes and media centers on devices the size of USB storage devices. Like Plex, Boxee, was also originally a fork of XBMC, before making its way to dedicated set-top box hardware. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a whole slew of new devices emerge on Kickstarter and elsewhere that combine low-cost hardware with XBMC for portable, full-featured media center solutions.
XBMC 12 is a big step forward for the platform, and one that adds a lot of other neat tricks, like AirPlay audio support for Windows. I’m not sure whether it can replace Plex in my affections, but I’m definitely going to give it a shot, and I can’t wait to see what third-party hardware hackers and developers build with the new platform access.