XBMC Media Center is a very popular free and open source cross platform media player application that is developed by the XBMC Foundation. Being an open source application, XBMC media center software is available for multiple operating-systems and hardware platforms. The latest version features a 10-foot user interface that can be used with televisions and controlled using remote control. What makes XMBC unique is that it lets its users to play and view videos, music, podcasts, and other digital media files of various formats from local and network storage media and the internet right out of the box.
It has been a popular alternative to Windows Media Centre and likes, and now the popular platform is finally going to be available for Android. Previously, there were applications like XBMC remote on the Android Play Store which could control the desktop software, just like the VLC remote app, but this is not just a remote application, nor is it a stripped down “mobile” version of the actual application. It is the real deal, and it promises to deliver the exact same experience that users enjoy with XBMC on a TV set top box, a computer, or any device on which XBMC is available.
Why this move you may be wondering? Well, it most probably has to do with set top boxes. As you know, XBMC is available on various set top boxes, and knowing the fact that various Android based set top boxes are capturing the TV market, in order to cater this category of audience, it is necessary that XBMC is available for Android, however, the application should work equally well on Android based tablets or even smartphones. XMBC name originally stood for Xbox Media Center and was designed to be used exclusively with Xbox, however, now it is catering a whole different audience, including Android in near future.
The XBMC for Android doesn’t require the device to be rooted or jailbroken in order to install it. The Android version will essentially have the same feature set that the desktop cousin has. Since it is ported to Android, it can be launched as an application on set-top-box, tablet, phone or any kind of device running Android as its operating system, which is great because users will be able to run one of the most functional media center software which is hassle free on a small, cheap embedded hardware.
Below is a video showing XBMC in action on an Android based device.
The application hasn’t been released yet. What is holding them back? Well, XBMC for Android was primarily developed on a Pivos XIOS DS set top box, and Pivos is the official sponsor for development. It works great on the Pivos XIOS DS, but on most of the other devices, only software decode of audio and video is possible. That said, the current software decode of media is very smooth, but they are considering to wait for universal hardware decode to be available so that hardware acceleration is attained before releasing it to the general public on Android Play Store.
Also, the developers were able to achieve high quality hardware accelerated playback on the Pivos XIOS DS by working with their vendors, but it is not sure whether those patches will be available to mainstream version of XBMC or remain as an exclusive patch for vendors. Since Pivos is the official sponsor of XBMC, it remains to see whether they will allow this to happen. On the other hand, developers at XBMC believe that an Open Max based player that is found on Raspberry Pi will be made available sooner than later.
In its current state, the software is very usable and since XBMC is an open source project, the source code has been made available. The beta apk are also made available for those early birds out there who would like to experience it firsthand.
Since XBMC has an UI that is primarity designed for use on TV, it may look a bit clunky on device that has a 4 inch screen, however, that isn’t stopping individual developers from designing a touch oriented skin. At present, there is lots of room available for improvements. Further development can take advantage of Android itself. Android has so many interesting features such as launching apps, location awareness, speech recognition etc. Imagine the sophistication achieved in a media player by exploiting all those features.