I’ve been using HTPCs for over five years and have transitioned between lots of hardware and software solutions. As much as I love building HTPCs, I can see their end approaching with TVs getting smarter.
At IFA this year, I saw a demonstration of LG’s upcoming Smart TV which should be releasing some time next year. The TV uses an application called Plex that I have used for a few months when I had the Mac Mini connected to my TV. Plex started off as a branch of XBMC focusing on the Mac platform but over the years, has become its own product.
What Plex does is take media files from your network and downloads information about these files- such as posters, cast and crew etc. It then shows your list of media in a beautiful interface that is easily navigable from your couch. Traditionally, Plex ran on a Mac connected to your TV but with this technology built on the TV, you no longer need a computer next to your TV.
That does not mean that you don’t need a PC at all as your media files will continue to remain on the PC and Plex will be running as a “Server” on that computer streaming files to your TV. I mentioned that Plex required a Mac but from my conversation with the LG rep, a Windows version of the server software should be available soon.
Besides media files stored on your computer, Plex has a pretty open plug-in architecture allowing you to access services like Netflix, YouTube etc. so technically, your LG TV should be able to stream any of these services along with other channels that stream on the Web such as CNN and BBC.
This is exactly where TVs should be headed- wired or wirelessly connected to your network streaming local files and online content. HTPCs never really became mainstream and with such technologies built on the TV, they never will.