My thoughts on XBMC for Android

I originally started work on Mizuu because I loved using my Boxee Box on my TV, and I was missing something similar for Android phones and tablets. Boxee is based on the open-source XBMC media center software, and – honestly – I’ve never really liked XBMC. I know, I know – many people live and swear to XBMC, but I’ve always felt that it’s unnecessarily complicated and hard to use.

For me Boxee was different than XBMC, because it’s much simpler to use and I think the user interface is a lot better. It’s much simpler and for me it was funny and exciting to use. That’s something I’ve wanted to achieve with Mizuu from day one.

A lot has happened since the first release of Mizuu, which was finished exactly a year ago today. I’ve learned a lot and have been fortunate enough to receive lots of lovely feedback, help and great suggestions from a lot of people around the world. For that I am very grateful. Mizuu wouldn’t have reached this point without you guys.

I think Mizuu – with the upcoming changes – is about to reach a point where it’s actually capable of being considered an alternative to the popular choices, and I’m really happy about this.

It was recently announced that the XBMC project will soon be hitting Android. I’ve had a few people ask me what I think about this because they’re afraid of what’s going to happy with Mizuu because of this. I’d like to address that in this post.

Like I said earlier in this post, I’ve never really been a fan of XBMC. It’s in many ways complicated to use and I think that it’s missing out on a lot of potential users because of this. That’s also why I think there’s room for alternatives like Boxee, despite being based on the same fundamental source code.

This is also the exact same reason why I don’t think of XBMC as a competitor to Mizuu, especially after seeing what XBMC looks like on Android devices. It’s the exact same thing. No mobile optimizations what so ever. On a smartphone, it’s practically impossible to use, and it’s really not a whole lot better on a tablet.

I know that there’ll be mobile optimized themes for XBMC on Android, but those are just themes. They’re not a core part of XBMC, and let’s face the facts: XBMC was never designed for Android. It was never designed to take advantage of Android’s many strengths and it’ll likely take years for something like that to happen. Mizuu was designed for mobile devices from the get-go, and I’m continuously improving support for these devices and try to improve the layouts for the best possible user experience.

There are tons of video players on Google Play that will have better performance than XBMC on Android, and it’s really no wonder – they’ve got more experience and have had more time to get things working. With XBMC you’ll never be able to take advantage of the performance of other video players, because XBMC is a video player in itself and will never allow third party players to “take over”. That means you’ll be stuck with software decoding for quite some time on many devices, and this is painfully slow when dealing with high resolution videos.

With Mizuu I decided to take an entirely different approach from day one. I don’t want to ignore third party video players – I want to use them. I want the user to be able to use their favorite video player with Mizuu and just have everything working.

I really could go on about this for a very long time to prove that Mizuu and XBMC really are two different pieces of software for different uses. They’ve had a huge focus on key and mouse interaction, whereas Mizuu has been designed for touch usage from the very beginning. That’s not something you change overnight in a project like XBMC. Just have a look at the image above – that’s what XBMC looks like on Android. That user interface hasn’t been optimized for mobile devices and it’s incredibly hard to use – even on a 4.65-inch device like the Galaxy Nexus.

So, to sum it all up: XBMC on Android won’t change anything for Mizuu. I’ll still keep working on it and I’m sure there will still be people who prefer Mizuu to XBMC – just like there’ll be people who prefer it the other way around. I don’t personally think that XBMC is ready for the mobile platform. It’s maybe ready for TV boxes, like OUYA, but not mobile devices.

PS. Google seems to like the idea of Mizuu on Google TV, so I might just have some news on that front soon 🙂

15 Comments

  1. The early XBMC build that I tried was nowhere near ready for prime time on my Mele STB. I like XBMC a lot, but I don’t use a vast majority of its features. As simple as Mizuu is, the nightly builds already have almost everything I need.

    Reply
    • That’s what I think as well. It was never designed for mobile and it currently doesn’t have hardware decoding for any Android devices (apart from the sponsored one).

      Reply
  2. Great post Michell.

    I am a pretty big XBMC fan, but I am also a huge Mizuu fan, when I read the title, I was genuinely concerned that you were giving up.

    Awesome to see that is not the case.

    Team-XBMC have even said that they are not aiming for this to be used on phones really because of the restrictions with the screen size. Google Tv is their main perogative, with Tablets coming in second priority.

    your UI and core are far beyond what I think they will be able to achieve for quite a while on this platform.

    awesome to hear the possibility of Mizuu on Google Tv, with network support it will honestly have no competition for a long time

    I’ve been very excited about this project since I first saw it because it was exactly what I wanted and was about to start my own project until this was released.

    I’ve been following you and this project since the beginning and will continue to regardless of xbmc.

    Thanks Michell

    Reply
    • Thanks, very happy to hear this. I’d never give up just because a massive project like XBMC comes along 😀

      Reply
  3. You have nothing to worry about. As of now the guys at xbmc are not even looking at supporting tegra 2 devices which number in the millions like my transformer. Something regarding difficult hardware acceleration for the T2 chip which i find hard to beleive as dice player shows no issue at all. I am long time xbmc user, my main htpc runs xbmc but their lack of interest for tablets is a joke. I guess they only give a crap for ipads. Anyway like i said nothing to worry about, mizuu plus dice will make xbmc an afterthought on android.

    Reply
    • I think the main reason for their lack of interest in tablets is that they’d have to do it over again, pretty much from scratch, like I did a year ago.

      Reply
  4. When I first heard XBMC was coming to Android I was looking forward to it. But then i saw the preview and it was just disappointing… I can’t imagine using that interface with a touchscreen. That’s what’s so great about Mizuu, especially the newest design. It’s just made for touching.
    Btw, what’s going on with Build 3

    Reply
    • “Made for touching” – that’s brilliant!

      I haven’t had access to my computer the last few days, but I’m on my way home now and will publish the next release within a few hours.

      Reply
  5. Big supporter of Mizuu also. Ive said it time after time and always recommend it to all every chance i get. I am looking foward to getting a better google tv other than my Revue, it needs more power. When I installed the .apk on it, it looked great but i know you werent even trying to make it work for the Revue yet. Hopefully Google give you more exposure soon. Good Luck and thanks for Mizuu.

    Reply
  6. Re your last paragraph: Mizuu is *exactly* the sort of skin that Google TV needs if it’s to become mainstream. It could become the de facto home screen for the whole device (and for other Android TV boxes). I hope it’s a big commercial success for you.

    Reply
  7. I believe with the new themes now released for XBMC dedicated for android tablets, it is certainly the superior choice. I respect Mizuu but after using it for a week, I was happy to make the switch to XBMC. There a few problems that need to be ironed out in order for Mizuu to compete. The major problem being that through trakt each movie/tv show you watch will show via trakt that you’ve watched it twice.

    Thanks,
    – Jonte

    Reply

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