How My Search for the Ultimate Media Streaming Solution Began

Over the years I’ve been in search of the perfect combination of hardware and software to stream my personal media and internet content to my TV. I’ve tried many different systems for this, and for the first time I’m starting to see the perfect solution emerge. My journey began on that glorious day when I first discovered XBMC. This prompted me to buy a modded Xbox just so I could run that software. This became the first elegant hardware / software solution allowing me to easily stream music, photos, and videos from my computer to my big screen tv.

How it has Evolved

I’ve continued to monitor advancements in hardware and sofware to stream media to my TV.  Over the years I’ve continued upgrading to new systems. When I upgraded my Xbox to a PS3 I discovered the PS3 Media Server to do this but the features and functionality was actually a step down from XBMC. I then bought an Aspire Revo which is a full fledged PC to run XBMC again, but dealing with the overhead of an OS (in this case Windows) that you have to maintain and all the configuration issues quickly made me revert back to the simplicity of the PS3. Streaming personal and internet media across my multiple devices continued to evolve and I even created a map to help illustrate it.

Read all the details here.

I then tested out both a Roku and a Boxee box. The Roku just isn’t suited very well to stream my personal media and the Boxee box is basically dedicated hardware that runs a custom version of XBMC. I was very happy with the Boxee and this was now a solution that got me to switch over from the PS3. Then when Logitech decided to have a fire sale for $99 on the Revue (Google TV) I bought one to check it out. Initially it was like an Apple TV in that it only came with a handful of apps and features and it didn’t have the ability to stream my personal media. But when Google announced an upgrade to allow access to the Android Market I got pretty excited. Now with access to an app marketplace I felt that the device could truly become a contender. So I kept watching for new apps and with the release of the GTVBox app along with Plex (another app built on XBMC) I could now stream my media. Then I recently purchased a Nexus 7 and discovered the Able Remote app which when connected to a Google TV, acts as a universal remote to control all my devices as well as the apps. Since the Google TV runs as a layer over my cable TV box, I’m now using this primarily over the Boxee. Google TV is starting to really become a strong contender but wait, there’s more.

Android TV Device Explosion

Over the last few months I’ve seen an explosion of new Android options becoming available for TV’s. The MK802 mini Android device for $74 has really made waves ushering in many similar devices including the CX-01 pushing the price down even further to $48. These thumbstick Android devices then spurred more dedicated devices for TV’s which included the $99 Infinitec Pocket TV and the $69 Equiso Smart TV. These were both Kickstarter projects that were very successful. Then came the announcement from XBMC that they were officially going to release a version for Android with development being done on yet another Android TV device called the XIOS DS. While this was happening the $99 Ouya which is an Android device for gaming expanded out with announcements that it will also include support for XBMC and Plex. Ouya raised almost $8.6 million becoming the 2nd most successful Kickstarter project ever. Along with all of these devices, several second generation Google TV devices are appearing and the one announced by Vizio for $99 has been heralded as a great device and sold out during its pre-order phase. Lastly, Airplay is one of the hottest features of iOS that has prompted people to buy Apple TV’s. This feature is also coming to Android. And speaking of Apple…

All devices mentioned above. (from top left) Equiso, MK802, Infinitec, Ouya, Vizio Co-Star, CX-01

So What About the Apple TV?

Business Insider referred to the Equiso being a device that might change TV forever but what’s really at play here is Android is clearly on its way towards getting a stronghold on the TV from many different angles. I feel Apple has to move quickly into this market. Unlike Google’s strategy which is to layer the Google TV over cable tv boxes, Apple is trying to replace them with their own device. This would give them control of the broadcast content delivery and would be an amazing coup that could really put them in the driver’s seat. But reports are that Apple’s plans to strike a deal with cable operators isn’t going to materialize. This prompted a great post by Janko Roettgers at GigaOM on the state of Apple, Google, and Microsoft’s attempts at entering the TV market. Also some more good insight into this situation at Mashable. I think the only hope for Apple towards keeping up with Google will be to open up the Apple TV to the iOS app market. If they don’t at the very least do that soon, it’s looking like Google is poised to get a huge lead as this battle rages on.

So Where do I Stand Now?

For now I’m primarily using my Logitech Revue but will also check out the Vizio Co-Star once it becomes available. I also backed the Ouya and will have to determine whether a full Android OS ends up being a better choice than Google TV or perhaps even use both. I’m very happy with my Nexus 7 and future mobile plans are playing a role in this decision. I am also eager to see what Apple announces but up to this point the Apple TV just doesn’t compete at all with these other options. I also find it amazing that Sony’s PS3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 just haven’t found a way to capitalize on their devices. Perhaps their next generation devices will once again do battle here.

 

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