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Tech Talk

Convert a computer into a TV with Plex

10/22/2014

It appears within 10 years the Internet will be one giant television. Every major Web entity is creating video content. Connections are slowly climbing to speeds that will easily stream virtually anything. It seems the only obstacle without a clear path to get around is organization. How will users be able to aggregate all the disparate content they’ve subscribed to across the Internet? I see an answer in Plex, a Web content DVR.

Last week, HBO finally announced it was getting into the Web streaming arena. The premium cable channel will continue broadcasting on television, however, non-cable subscribers can now access HBO content online through a Web-only subscription. With this announcement, the list of major media providers that offer gated streaming video is getting quite crowded. In addition to HBO, there is Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Yahoo, Sony, AOL and more than 100 others.

Searching content across all of these sites can get tedious, bouncing from one to the other continuously. While there are set-top devices — such as Roku and Apple TV — that offer cross-platform search, users still need to enter every letter of a title with their remote control to find what they’re looking for. If there’s one advantage cable television still has on Web content, it’s the guide feature and its ease of use — but that advantage will soon disappear.

Plex, a powerful desktop/mobile media application, offers the ease of use of cable with the boundless content of the Internet. Whether streaming, downloaded or ripped from physical media, the Plex Media Server allows users to search by genre, actors, ratings or simply browse mindlessly as if they were flipping channels on a TV. Combined with Google Chromecast, Plex combines all computing platforms a user owns to be beamed directly to a Wi-Fi-enabled television.

As fantastic as HBO’s announcement was, the service that should be getting all the excitement is Plex. By the time technology does turn the Internet into TV 2.0, Plex will be the software that makes it all possible. Now if only the NFL, NBA and MLB would join the streaming circus. CV

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Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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