Plex and the Future of Television

This week has been a big one for TV-related announcements. Apple annouced their revamped Apple TV, and Boxee was quick to reply with their own thoughts on the matter. It turns out that now is the perfect time for us to explain our vision for the future of Plex and television as well.

Today, Plex requires that you have a Mac connected to your TV. As sexy as they are, a Mac Mini is $699. And let’s face it, you probably have a few televisions, so it becomes an expensive proposition to Plex-ify your house, especially now that you can stream your library all over with Plex/Nine. Of course, on the flip side, a Mac Mini is a powerful computer that can be used for other meaningful tasks like 3D modeling, genome sequencing, or World of Warcraft.

MacMini.png

Another approach is something like the Boxee Box. It’s $199, which is much better, but still prohibitive for many, and it’s completely specialized. No way you could send your kid off to college with a Boxee Box, although you have to admit, it would probably help his or her social life. Additionally, releasing a custom piece of hardware is not a trivial endeavor, if we even wanted to attempt such a thing. Embedded systems are hard, and the XBMC codebase from which Plex and Boxee are both derived is a large and complex one. And really, at the end of the day, do you want yet another specialized box sitting by your TV?

Boxee.png

Even if you get the design right, you have to be able to price it appropriately. With not outrageously different hardware from Boxee, the new Apple TV is half the price. Apple also has a two-fold advantage over Boxee: They are going to be selling their Apple TV in much higher volume (which means lower cost to produce), and – critically – they can subsidize the cost of the device because they make money every time you put your arm around your date and click “Watch” on a movie. Also, let’s face it, it’s a typical Apple product: it works perfectly as long as you don’t stray outside their ecosystem. Your files have to be in their limited range of supported formats, and you only get access to the online content they sanction. It’s not an open platform in any sense of the word, and trust me, I was the first person hoping to be able to run our Plex iOS app on it.

AppleTV.png

The optimal solution, of course, would be a box that was free, infinitely small, and required no cables. Well, we’re extremely proud to be able to introduce to you, for the first time, the Plex Box, with exactly those characteristics.

PlexBox.png

How is this possible? Well, we actually have one more “one more thing” to announce: We’re working with LG Electronics (the second largest TV manufacturer in the world) to integrate the Plex platform into their 2011 lineup of Netcast™ connected TVs and Blu-ray devices. So early next year, when you buy an LG Netcast™ TV or Blu-ray player, you will have Plex functionality built-in. Specifically, it will connect to a cloud version of the Plex platform for online content, and, if you happen to have a Plex Media Server running anywhere in your house (after all, who doesn’t have a computer in their house?), you can access your local and online content, in a rich interface, with full metadata. I’ve seen it, and it looks awesome.

I’ve been talking a lot about the importance of getting the architecture right for our platform, and this is a perfect example. Thin clients (LG TV, iOS devices), a smart media server, and plug-ins that can run in the cloud. A single integrated interface to access online content, local content, and personal content.

I can’t even begin to tell you how exciting this is to us. LG chose our platform in no small part because it is OPEN, and that is what makes it special. We have developers all over the world creating plug-ins, helping us evolve the platform, and using it creatively. We wouldn’t be here without them, and it’s been an absolute pleasure working with them over the years. I also have enormous respect for LG, who have great products, massively talented engineering, and forward-thinking management. I’ve been to Korea twice in the last year, and their engineers are super-smart, highly knowledgable, and a delight to work with. They “get” where TV is going, and I have to make a confession – the first time I saw their Plex interface, talking to a remote Plex Media Server and flawlessly streaming content, I had to pretend I had something in my eye. This is a team completely committed to revolutionizing the way we enjoy content, and clearly willing to take chances in doing so, as evidenced by working with a small team like ours.

This is also a massive win for content providers. Yesterday, writing a Plex plug-in would make their content available on a Mac, or a television powered by a Mac. Yesterday, they could suddenly make their content available on 100 million iOS devices. And tomorrow (early next year, technically), they will be able to get their content onto millions of LG TVs and Blu-ray devices. This, friends, is an unprecedented time in history. The distance between content provider and consumer has never been this close or frictionless, and it’s incredible to be a part of.

So what does this mean to you, our dear users? You’ve been so supportive over the years, and this is great news for you as well. It means, first and foremost, that we’ll be able to focus more resources on the development. This will be a full-time job for me and others on the team, which is – honestly – a dream come true. The Plex Media Server is the heart and lungs of the platform, and we’ll be making it rock solid and adding some really, really cool new features. We’ll be bringing it to more platforms, to make it available everywhere. There will be more content providers investing in writing Plex plug-ins, so your online content choices will grow. And next year, if you’re upgrading your TV, or or buying an LG Blu-ray player, you’ll have the ability to get Plex, built in, at no additional cost. Fully integrated into killer consumer electronics gear, exactly as it should be.

And *that* is cool.

It’s been a long journey this past year. Now you finally know all of the cool stuff we’ve been working on, and it’s so great to be able to share it with you. We’ve re-architected our platform for the future, and thankfully, most of that work is behind us. Now we can focus on making Plex more stable, more usable, and overall more AWESOME.

Here’s a link to the press release.

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212 Comments

  • Elan, first congratulations on the LG deal.
    I’m little confused between the article and your comment.

    “So early next year, when you buy an LG Netcast™ TV or Blu-ray player, you will have Plex functionality built-in.”

    But in your comment it seems the LG TV is only a client to the Plex Media Server.

    So is it just a client needing a separate server either in the cloud or locally on a Mac or PC?

    • @Alan: Correct, although the cloud version is of course more than just a Plex Media Server running on a great Mac in the sky.

  • Congratulation.
    You guys earned this. And that you finaly get a living out of plex is just great!!!!!

  • Guys…. you are the reason why I moved from Xp to Mac… now you are pushing me to change all my Sam…g for LG!!!
    Let me know if I can buy some shares….

    GREAT job you are doing

  • Awesome, awesome job guys.
    So glad you’ve finally got your dream of being able to work full time on this! I do ‘in my spare time’ coding, and it just doesn’t feel quite right.

    Once again, loving everything you’re doing and keep up the awesome work you’re doing

  • I just bought an LG TV a couple weeks ago with Netcast and DLNA capability. It’s been asked already but not answered, will these current models be software-upgradeable to be able to access Plex?

    I’ve also found some bugs with their video playing software (it ignores pixel aspect ratios, and is unable to play AAC audio for movies that last more than 90-100 minutes). Would Plex provide an end run around their buggy player implementation, or will the client simply re-use their existing players with video streams provided by PMS? Are you in tight with any LG engineers? Maybe you could prevail on them to fix those bugs? :)

    • @Nick: I’m actually not sure about the upgradability, but my guess would be not, just because of the new decoder hardware. Every experience I’ve had with the LG engineers has been fabulous, they are working hard on getting as many formats/codecs supported as is realistically possible.

  • Elan-
    Will the resignation of the LG CEO tonight and the announced reorganization have any impact on the inclusion of Plex with the new LG equipment?

  • I hope there is a way to upgrade my 55″ 55LE8500. Netcast and DLNA are alrady on board.

  • Great to see there is so many LG TV customers using NetCast. You can add me to the list, as I’m another LG customer who just bought 2 x LG high end 60″ plasmas (60PK950) with NetCast installed.

    Elan, please ask LG NOT WILL, BUT WHEN will your great Plex client be available as a Firmware upgrade for 2010 series NetCast Plasma TV.

    NOTE to forward to LG:
    1) After spending over US$3.5k on 2 x LG NetCast enabled Plasma TV for the home, the least LG can do is reward their loyal customers with a firmware upgrade with Plex.
    2) Tip: Continued Software Firware/iOS update’s is another reason why Apple customers are so loyal to purchasing their mobile hardware. LG, please don’t make the same mistake as Nokia and other Asia manufactures. Please support upgrading of your 2010 series Plasma firmware with Plex integration!

    Would it be a good idea to create a new thread in this form to follow-up LG on this? If they want assistance to beta test any LG Plex firmware updates in Europe, I’d would be more then willing!

  • DaveFromEU; A lot of consumers are asking this, myself included. But you really must look at the truth of it, you paid your $3.5k for the best item that you could afford and was available at the time of your purchase, and it is a pretty great item for sure, as it is still today. It is an electronic device and by nature will depreciate not only in monetary value but also in feature ability as advances occur. What is being unveiled here through a lot of major hard work by very talented individuals and a large corporate manufacturer is something completely new not only in software, but in hardware too most likely. By nature of this, it will be highly unlikely that your system will run this new platform. Realistic expectations need to be used here. Now, let’s bring to the table what you do know – Plex is coming to LG. Good. Now place your current $3.5k device on the auction block somewhere as it still carries value to those who do not yet know what you do know. Make some of your money back. Find a good cheap interim solution and pocket your funds for the 2011 LG SmartTV and support this Plex direction. Our Plex developers are rewarded, LG is rewarded and you are rewarded. WINS all around!

  • Where is the Plex logo?

  • I recently purchased an LG 50 inch plasma and it’s still in the box. Does anyone know if the 2010’s will be upgradeable for Plex software? I could still return it and wait a couple of months. I called LG and of course they couldn’t tell me.

    • @Connie: It will not be upgradable.

  • Question,

    I understand the LG TV & BD players will have the client and they will not (assuming) cost anymore do to this, but will help them sell more. If it was up to me all devices would have the client :) But you still need the server… so the $699 (large) is still needed. And my understanding is PLEX will be creating versions of PLEX to run on other OS platfroms so this will open up what NEEDS to be purchased to run PLEX Server but still needed, so that may decrease the $699 (large) :). Also and you will quickly learn dedicated is better. Your desktop/laptop blewup, oops forgot to turn in on (run downstairs, etc…).
    So we need to play pretend. To get this great product mainstream and to avarage John/Jane’s. The Plex server needs dedicated hardware just to do one thing (maybe two) only run the server software so MANY PLEX clients (TV’s) can stream from it (so dual gig nics teamed). And have 1 HDMI output to able (this is #2) to be a client for one TV as well (optical audio out to AV). NO internal harddrives. 1 or more usb connections for those who which to attach a USB drive and support connecting to all file systems (NFS/NTFS/etc. ISCSI would be a bonus add-on). IR for control. Thats it! not a thing more. Need a small hardware device running ONLY PLEX Server. It would be quiet, hidden, dedicated, kept on at all times. Nothing else installs on it, it can be auto/manually updated but NOTHING else. That would be the perfect device. Get rid of all other support (windows/mac/linux, etc. software). You want Plex? buy this small dedicated hardware device. The client is the only piece that can be software based and also available as another small dedicated device for additional rooms (tv/hdmi/optical out/nic) or integrated HW/Client like what LG will be doing. Now that free’s PLEX up to work on all current bugs, additions, file type support, etc. basically all our demands! :)

    I am personally very fustrated how long its taking ANYONE to get streaming LOCAL & WEB (not just netflex) with a nice (selectable) GUI on a TV, scraping and all.

    This one supports this, that one supports that, this one is not 1080p, that one doesnt do MKV, this one wont torrent, that one has weekly bug fixes. Come on now.

    Sign me up as chief IT Architect at PLEX and there will be nothing but PLEX by year end 2011.

  • Been waiting for someone to put it all in one box!
    There are many good boxes out there but they are all lacking in one sense or another.
    Hopefully with Plex installed and the ability to index, stream local content, and a GUI LG will have set the mark. It will be nice to see how customizable LG will make Plex for us that like to tinker.

  • There is a great tutorial on how to install Plex on the Apple TV 2G here – take a look:

    http://appletvblogr.com/2011/01/how-to-get-plex-running-on-4-2-1-frappliance/

  • Congrats on the LG deal. You guys do fantastic work and I am a happy user of plex on my Mac.

    However I dont really buy into this logic. Basically what you are saying instead of buying an HTPC or a embedded device we have to buy a whole new TV. That is not free.

    I’m holding my breath that you come out with an embedded device with a HD (unlike APple TV). Plex is the best at the moment, however I only own a laptop and do not want to buy an HTPC or new TV to use it on the big screen.

  • This is wrong. I have just (14th september 2011) bought a LG blu-ray player with “Smart TV” and run all updates. Medialink/ plex is not there. Browsing everything I have found from LG, they have never said that Plex will ever be on Blu-ray devices, only on some TVs. In other words, I should have gone with Samsung, for which there is a Plex client. How about updating this page so that not more people are fooled into buying LG?

  • Morten, according to this post made on 7 April 2011 by an “LG employee, Plex is not available on any Blu-ray player:

    “As of today (4/7/2011), the following products will not support Plex. All BD players. All Home Theater Systems.”

    (http://forums.plexapp.com/index.php/topic/25399-lg-products-with-plex/)

    This is a huge disappointment to me, specially after reading the exciting statement made by lamnina.

    I will look for the Samsung model you mentioned.

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