Popular open-source media player XBMC headed to Android

The developers of well-known open-source media player XBMC have a beta version of their software working on Android, the team has announced.

XBMC is a free digital media hub that is designed to catalog, organize and play music and movies in a huge range of formats. It's designed to work best on a home theater PC setup, though it can be used on standard computers as well.

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It's currently available for iOS, OSX, Linux, Windows and Apple TV, as well as in a dedicated XBMCbuntu package that can be installed as a full operating system for a media center device.

While the Android beta is more or less functional, an XBMC blog post says, there are still plenty of kinks to be worked out, including a limitation to software decoding, rather than hardware.

"We considered waiting until universal hardware decode was ready before making our announcement, but in the end decided that in the spirit of keeping things open and working with our ever-expanding community, it made sense to open up sooner rather than later," the team says.

A video of the program running on an Android-based media box shows off the interface and versatility.

According to the blog post, the beta won't be made available on the Google Play store until the developers are satisfied that most Android users will get a functional product, and warned that any XBMC apps found there before the official release are impostors.

"We ask that our users stay on the lookout for evil-doers trying to cash in on XBMC's popularity. If you see anyone masquerading as XBMC, please be sure to let us and Google know about it," according to the post.

Dealing with the wide variety of Android versions and hardware in use will be another major challenge, the team said.

Google itself made a limited move in the same direction with the introduction of its Nexus Q home media hub at the recent Google I/O developer conference. However, that device isn't designed to store media locally, and many have derided its $300 price tag as excessive. Running XBMC on commodity hardware -- or even a sufficiently powerful Android smartphone or tablet -- could become a more attractive option when a full version is released.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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