Why Roku May Never Get an XBMC ChannelSpecial commentary by Ryan Downey TheStreamingAdvisor.com
Sometimes one of the best ways to learn new information about technology or any subject is to read comments beneath an article about that given subject. While you may have to sift through a lot of superlative or overly negative retorts there are often nuggets of helpful information or at least intriguing questions buried in them. The comments are a window into a community of interested parties, anytime there is an update for the Roku line of products there is almost always one one demanding that Roku add XBMC.
XBMC The Super Hub
The program has many of the same apps as the Roku and many that are not provided by the set top box. The problem between XBMC and Roku likely is because some of the most popular apps on XBMC allow users to pull in content such as current TV shows and movies from web servers without the permission of the rightful distributor. In other words pirating.
Most observers feel that this is the functionality that many of the commenters feel that Roku should provide. The reason being is that there are already any number of Roku channels that allow users to view local content on their Roku boxes available already.
Customer Feedback Will Not Change ThingsAdvocates for XBMC can plead with Roku through message boards and yell from the tops of discussion boards but Roku is very unlikely to add an XBMC Channel. The criticisms of Roku for not carrying an XBMC app are missing a very important point.
Since its inception Roku has been building partnerships with media distribution services from small startup websites to major players like Netflix and Amazon and Hulu, which is a platform owned by ABC, Fox and Comcast. There are major media companies including News Corp, the parent company of Fox, and Dish Network are investors with Roku.
These companies would not be happy with Roku if its next release featured an app meant for taking their content instead of buying it. If mainstream media companies began to see Roku the way the music industry saw Napster that would cripple the company’s ability to negotiate in good faith with anyone else going forward.
There are many manufacturers who produce set top boxes designed to run XBMC such as the G-Box MX2, the Little Black Box and the Ouya but in line with my earlier assertion these set top boxes do not run any officially licensed media apps.
The Open BoxRoku is not alone in its avoidance of XBMC. The second generation of Apple TV ATV2 became known as a platform for XBMC once it was unlocked. It should be considered no coincidence that there is still no simple method that will unlock Apple TV 3.
Apple in an unofficial way wanted to distance itself from the practice. Recently a developer found a way to hack the Apple Trailers app on ATV3 in order to install Plex.
This hack was disabled shortly after with a software update. There has been no official statement from Apple on the matter. The Apple TV 2 can sell for hundreds more than its original sticker price due to its ability to be unlocked.
Does Roku Allow Any Programs Like XBMC?There is an interesting wrinkle. Roku can appears to allow for programs that provide the sorts of third party apps that XBMC provides as long as the channels work from a separate server.
For instance Roku allows the private channel PlayOn to be installed on its devices. On the surface PlayOn officially is an avenue for local content to be viewed via a Roku. It also provides a method to watch Hulu for free on the Roku along with providing apps to a number of cable and broadcast stations.
But there is a massive third party development community constantly releasing “extensions” for PlayOn that include 1Channel, Tube Plus and other popular portals for unauthorized content. Roku also has an official Plex channel.
Plex is built on the same coding as XBMC and can support third party add-ons but like PlayOn it must be used in conjunction with a computer server. Plex neither endorses the use of third party add-ons nor do they provide an official option to add them. But through unrelated sites like github and even Plex’s forum one can download a zip file for a channel called the unsupported app store and install it into the channel directory. Once it is installed users can access “Let Me Watch This” which is another avenue to the 1Channel along with numerous other apps including Ice Films.
Will it Change?Roku is continuing to build a brand based on ease of use and openness. The company thrives on multiple media partnerships with the major broadcast companies and main stream streaming sources. Going forward I doubt that Roku will change its stance on the subject of XBMC.