TVedia is a media center frontend with some extremely interesting networking functionallity and a very nice interface for YouTube, Google Video, Flickr, LastFM and other media related web sites.
I recently gave it a run on my Windows Media Center Edition box. The installation was very easy. The MCE remote worked at once with no configuration.
Excellent media library
You let the software scan your drives for media files and it builds a database that lets you browse your images, videos and music. So far so good. A full screen media browser like all the others out there. And, after my quick test I must say that it is a very good one. The animated user interface is fast and user firendly, but not as smooth and slick as Windows Media Center Edition (MCE). The advantage is the fact that TVedia has modest hardware requirements compared to MCE.
Universal plug and play
But what’s so special about TVedia compared to all the other available options? The network integration. During installation it asked if I wanted access to the media that TVedia found on the other computers on my network. I said Yes, and when installing TVedia on another box on the same network all my media showed up there as well. No questions asked, no configuration. It just worked.
TVedia is a universal plug and play (UPnP) client and server. Meaning that it will communicate with your UPnP enabeled phone or media server. I haven’t tried this yet, so I’ll have to come back to how this works. You can read more here.
Web video in your living room
But the functionallity that impressed me the most is TVedia’s nice integration with sites like YouTube, GoogleVideo and Flickr.
With TVedia these sites are suddenly available from your remote on the big screen in the living room. The experience works very well. You can search for video clips and browse categories. Compared to the YouTube and GoogleVideo plugin for Windows Media Center Edition this experience is way better. Of course, the quality of the videos on these sites doesn’t look very good on your 42 inch LCD, but the playback is done through ffdshow and gives you an experience as good as possible. When trying to predict the future of technology a couple of things are pretty certain. The quality will be better! This is a preview of some of the functionallity that the future of big screen entertainment will give you.
Such a nice interface for these sites can turn out to be very interesting and really emphasize the possibilities of Long Tail Content in your living room. (If you want to know more about the long tail Chris Anderson explains it in The Media Center Show here. Or, of course Wikipedia comes you your rescue with a great article.)
For Flickr you can even upload pictures to your account directly from TVedia. You can browse your own sets, your friend’s pictures, search and browse tags.
When running a slide show of photos from Flickr TVedia downloads the largest version available and present them with nice transitions on your TV.
If you add the fact that TVedia plays protected music from both iTunes and MSN Music and has an open interface for plug in development you are close to the perfect media center. And you can’t complain about the price of $35,- either.
So what’s the catch?
Unfortunately, there’s a big one. No TV functionallity yet. You need to run it in cooperation with SnapStream Beyond TV or another proper PVR software. I have years of experience with such solutions. Running one PVR software and another media library software. That is not at all something that I would recommend. The fact that Windows Media Center Edition provides me with both a media library and a proper PVR with an EPG was my main reason to switch to this platform.
The usability, navigation and stability always suffer when running several programs. TVedia version 3.5 had PVR capabilities, so I really hope that 8Dimensions will add a proper PVR with EPG to TVedia version 4 as soon as possible.
But, if you’re in for a tiny bit of tweaking and maintenance, the combination of TVedia and the already mentioned SnapStream Beyond TV will give you a media box with far more functionallity than a plain MCE 2005 box from Microsoft.
So far this is one of the most interesting products I have seen in this space for a long time! The music library, networking and online features are way better than what I am used to in MCE. Please guys, add a proper PVR and you have a winner on your hands.