Bona fides first
Over the past 9 years I have connected the following devices to my television in order to make the most out of my rather large media collection
- PC – Windows Media Center 2004
- PC – Windows Media Center 2005
- PC – Windows Vista
- PC – Windows 7
- PC – XMBC
- PC – Boxee
- Boxee Box
- Logitech Revue with Google TV
- XBox 360
- Boxee TV
I don’t think my feature set is outrageous.
I want access to my local content in a visually friendly and intelligent manner
I have a collection of digitized media (both music and video) that ranges somewhere in the hundreds of gigabytes and much of which is not wholly accessible via streaming solutions. I want a system that can scan, index, and associate artwork with that content.
I want to be able to stream from all (or most) of my media solutions
I have paying subscriptions to a wide array of popular media solutions: Amazon Prime, Google Play Music All Access, Hulu, Netflix, and Pandora. I want to access these items in a manner which has the least amount of branding and a similar UI. I don’t want Netflix and Hulu to feel different just because someone different is getting my $7~$8 a month.
I want something that tackles what Fanhattan has labeled the Friday Night Problem
It’s 2013, my tech needs to do something more than merely index, sort, and search my content. It needs to understand my consumption habits and recommend new content in a personalized manner.
Today, Google introduced Chromecast, which I suspect is the H2G2-42 product that’s still half secret at the FCC (Will know for sure on July 31 when the rest of the FCC documents go public). It’s a superminimalist streaming solution – next-to-no native GUI, requires a device as a remote, and has a stupid low price point. In a lot of ways, this feels like the Nexus Q, but minus the highend hardware in favor of staying out of sight.
Here’s the thing – I don’t mind seeing hardware, especially if it’s visually appealing. And by visually appealing I mean black and cold looking, like the hifi equivalent of the Monolith from 2001. What I do care about is having access to all of my stuff, be it local or online. I want to blur those lines so that when I’m watching ripped DVDs of a series, I can then switch to the streaming version. I don’t mind hooking up cable to get access to live tv (but I’d prefer the device to go over the top and around a cable provider. I’m willing to pay for that privilege just to avoid Comcast’s notoriously bad GUI).
The Boxee Box was a fantastic device and, aside from a dedicated media center PC, has come the closest to making all of this stupid simple. But the tech underpinnings were ripped out, leaving the device neutered. And Boxee turned their backs on their users (sorry guys, but you did that three times – app, Box, TV).
The Google TV did it’s best to integrate behind a unified UI, but that died when you jumped into an app. Having to jump into multiple apps is still a shit solution that’s been foisted on users due to the pissing match moneywar between Content Owners and Content Providers.
The Chromecast is probably worth the $35, but I really want something higher-end with Chromecast built in. Something that can run XMBC or Plex. Something that can read my NAS and assemble an index, assign metadata, download art, etc.
Right now, I’m looking at the XBox One or the Fanhattan Fan TV as my goto solutions. If neither of those really works out, I’m probably going to have to go back to building my own jank.