Perennial media management software favorite Plex is celebrating a return of sorts today: The company has launched an official client for Xbox One, after having originally been based on XBMC, the open-source media player that took its name from the original Xbox. Plex is now an official Xbox partner, however, marking a big change from the early, more rebellious years.
The Plex app for Xbox One is a new approach to Plex overall, with a landscape interface that Plex co-founder and Chief Product Officer Scott Olechowski says is admittedly due partly to design requirements set out by the Xbox team, but that also will make its way back to the wider suite of Plex software on other platforms, too.
“[Xbox] certainly kind of encouraged this landscape type scrolling, but the more we used this the more we realized how well it works,” he said. “You’ll see this approach taken in other places. The more we used it, the more we realized it’s more natural. We kind of fell in love with aspects of it, [and] over time we want to have a more consistent experience.”
In particular, the approach to servers that Plex takes will find its way to the rest of the Plex apps, Olechowski says. Existing Plex users will know that the clients generally combine multiple servers, making one huge content library out of however many you have connected. This has some advantages, but it also means there could be a lot of duplication in any single client experience. With the Xbox One version, users select different libraries they’re connected to via a prominent drop-down, and then received a customized browsing experience for each.
The browsing experience itself is also re-imagined, with a new emphasis on discoverability and suggestions. Plex has mostly been about providing your content either listed alphabetically, or by download date, or by surfacing up a loose queue based on what else you’ve watched. But with the Xbox One version, it now offers suggestions more like those found on Netflix, with content from your library displayed based on what actors you like, for instance, or by reminding you about a series you started but then seemingly forgot about, or by offering up a title you downloaded but never even got around to starting.
These discovery options extend to your own home movie library, too, and the suggestions will be smarter and more detailed in time, according to Olechowski, as well as move to other platforms. The Xbox client will be launched on the Xbox one tomorrow, but it will also be released for the Xbox 360 a little later on, complete with a full list of voice and gesture navigation commands. At first, it’ll be restricted to Plex Pass subscribers only, but it’ll also eventually launch for free platform users. I asked Olechowski whether we might see similar software debut on PlayStation, too, but he declined to provide an answer for the time being.
Seeing Plex make it to the Xbox One as an official partner is a little like watching a lamb lie down with a lion to this old-school user, but it’s a welcome development, and provides yet another option to make sure your content is available wherever you hope to find it.