The Pivos XIOS DS – The revolution starts here

When XBMC shifted to Linux, OSX, and Windows, it took with it video playback, music playback, and pictures from the Xbox. And it left behind games and opening other applications. With the announcement of XBMC for Android, we finally get all that back again.

Let me back up a moment.

In all this excitement about XBMC for Android, I get the impression that most authors are pumped about the possibilities of XBMC on cheap devices, but are missing out on something much more fundamental.  XBMC can provide the best 10 foot user interface for Android… in the world.

Android UI Realities

To put it simply, Android sucks on anything that isn’t touch based. You are presented a huge list of items in a grid with maybe a few widgets littering the screen. You have to navigate using a mouse or some other alternative to  your finger. And from 10 feet away, you have to somehow see what all those app icons mean without any hope of en-biggening embiggening* them.

*Thanks to user gilles_duceppticon for providing the correct way to spell this made up word!

On top of that, the standard Android UI acts as if everything you might like to do in front of a TV on your couch is of equal importance. You don’t have quick access to a list of your TV shows or movies or TV guide. You don’t have easy access to your music catalog. It’s all just indistinguishable app after indistinguishable app. One of the great moves made by MS with the Windows Phone 7 was to present ACTIONS on the home screen, rather than apps. They called them tiles, but the idea was to let a user click on an action he wanted to perform, rather than clicking on the app he wanted to perform the action in.

It’s a minor distinction, but an important one to make, because that’s exactly how XBMC works. The XBMC home screen presents actions. We don’t ask, “Do you want to open DVDPlayer?” We ask, “Do you want to watch a movie or view live TV? Do you want to listen to music or view a slide show or open an application that doesn’t neatly fit into one of our built in Media Center categories*?”

*At this very moment, Jonathan Marshall is working on a new way to come up with new user created actions for the home screen called “nodes.” As of the May dev cycle, if you are handy with xml files, you can already create new nodes for your video files.  With luck, we should see this new power extended to home screen nodes in the next few months.

The XBMC Switcheroo

XBMC is simply 100% better at the 10-foot UI space than stock Android. So from a user perspective, wouldn’t it make sense if we could drop the Android UI altogether and replace it with the XBMC UI, the same way you could replace the default Xbox 1′s dashboard with XBMC? Of course it would. Which is why, on the Pivos XIOS DS at least, that’s exactly what you will be able to do.

In speaking with both Scott Davilla and Cory Fields, the story comes clear that XBMC for Android is a very different beast than XBMC for iOS. In particular:

  • XBMC for Android will allow users to boot directly into XBMC
  • XBMC for Android can launch Android apps
  • When the launched Android app is closed, the user will be returned to XBMC
  • When the Pivox XIOS box is turned on and begins booting, the boot screen is user changeable and can even show animations!

So basically, a person using XBMC for Android never even needs to know that they are using Android! It can be one uniform, clean experience from boot up to shut down. And with root access courtesy of Pivos, they can customize that access any way they like. You could literally boot with an XBMC Brony image and get Bronied all the way until the cows came home! Or ponies! Fluttered!

XBMC Brony – Great skin for XBMC, or the GREATEST skin?

XBMC Platforms Compared – In Brief

In this way, XBMC for Android almost automatically becomes the single best version of XBMC. Consider: in Linux and on Windows the boot process is slow and starts with an ugly BIOS screen. On OSX, iOS, and Windows, users are forced to see, if only for a moment, the underlying OS before getting presented with XBMC. On iOS users have to deal with jailbreaking and various updating issues. Across platforms, launching apps is a tedious process that requires installing an addon and defining a number of confusing commands that vary based on OS and application. And shutting down can be slow, time consuming, and confusing.

In fact, the only version of XBMC that never had any of those problems was the very first version of XBMC: Xbox Media Center.*

*XBMC4Xbox for the kids in the audience.

On XBMC4Xbox, you could launch videos, music, pictures, programs, and games, all from the same XBMC dashboard. You could boot up with a really cool boot video. Shutting down took only a couple clicks. Once the Xbox was hacked, you never had to worry about constant sneak updates from the internet. Honestly, there were only two really huge problems with the Xbox. 1st, you had to hack it to get XBMC running. 2nd, it simply could not play HD video (and certainly not h.264 L4.1 HD video).

XBMC for Android can match every listed quality of XBMC for Xbox and finally supersede it by coming pre-rooted (in the case of the XIOS DS) and by easily managing to play Bluray quality video.

In fact, the only negative comparison I can find in relation to the original Xbox is that the XIOS cannot play MS Xbox 1 video games. I guess that’s a little sad. But that can be mitigated by the wealth of Android games and emulators in the Android Play store. Plus, since Android supports the OnLive gaming cloud network, you could even play high quality PC games like Assassin’s Creed Revelations from the comfort of your couch at a quality that absolutely destroys the original Xbox in most situations, so long as your internet connection is a good one.

Not a scene found in Assassin’s Creed.


Forget the Xbox 360, the PS3, Plex, the Boxee Box, and every version of XBMC that has come before. If you were an ardent fan of XBMC4Xbox, the only platform on the planet with support for as many formats, as much content, and as much flexibility is this: XBMC for Android. Welcome to the future. It started last Friday.

Pivos UlTRA SLIM XIOS DS HD Wi-Fi Media Player w/ Remote & Google Apps

  • rjbell4

    I think you do a disservice to the Linux boot process by neglecting what OpenELEC provides in this regard.  My Linux box (with SSD) boots very quickly to a working XBMC instance using OpenELEC — quicker than my Android phone boots, in fact, and probably roughly akin to what by old XBox use to take (maybe just a second or two longer, but no more than that).

    • NathanBetzen

      My apologies to OpenELEC, rjbell4. There’s no denying that OpenELEC does an amazing job at speedily booting. My complaint falls mainly on the fact that for most PC’s you have to see an ugly BIOS screen for a second at the beginning of the boot process. Admittedly, that’s not a huge problem, but it does take away from the aesthetic, which matters to many.

      • rjbell4

        On many of my computer, a picture (optionally, but also by default) covers the BIOS screen.  Granted, it’s related to the hardware, not XBMC or OpenELEC, but isn’t that exactly what the original XBox “throbber” was?  I’ll give you that the Xbox startup had sound and animation.  I suppose I’m less sensitive to the issue.

  • Gogo

    works nice but no hardware acceleration on my archos g101

  • thames

    It really depends what  you want to do with your htpc or set top box.  I have a small mini ITX HTPC with windows 7 and an SSD.  Boot up time isnt an issue because of sleep and wake times, and with the ability to hop into XBMC or use windows in general provides me with more flexibility.

  • Brad Emerson

    It sounds more like XMBC for android is a custom ROM then, rather than an App?

    • bucketachicken

      I see why you’d say that, reading the article. However, I think XBMC for Android is more of a Launcher replacement than a custom ROM, since it can launch other apps and boots directly.

      I can see in the future though taking XBMC for Android and building a ROM that is optimized for it with XBMC as the default launcher. Problem would just be “what device to build for?” I suppose.

  • Shaun Moon

    XBMC will not run on Acer Iconia A100 Android 4.03.  Spec link:

    Just giving you guys a heads up, I understand this is still pretty early in development.  Keep up the good job guys, we really appreciate your hard work! :D

  • phertiker

    XBMC running Android apps: this just became the “ultimate media box” that I’ve been searching for the last 10 years that my wife can also use.

  • NonPortable

    For portable devices sure in an airplane, train, car or similar sure.
    But for home use, the 30-40 second boottime my Windows 7 machine has (on standard laptop plate-drive) from power-on to XBMC menu, really isnt that much of a bother.

    • rjbell4

      I personally find more than 10-12 seconds a bother, which is why I run OpenELEC.  Like the OP, I guess I’m attuned to the “instant on” functionality of the original Xbox, etc.

  • Doron Oogjen

    Thanks NJ, I much enjoyed reading the article. I got nothing techie to comment, just applauding the writing-skills.. ;-)

  • Michi07f

    omg.. i still remember playing my favorite xbox games with xbmc in the eraly 2000s.

    i’m born 1996 so that was really impressive to me as a young geek.

  • Ethan Mondy

    So my question is with the newer audio engine, will it allow HD audio passthru of DTS-HD MA and DDHD audio?

  • Mathieu

    I’m confuse: are you comparing XBMC to the generic Android UI or to the Google TV UI?

    The Google TV UI still needs a lot of work but you can search for any content from any source and access this content “easily” … that’s what they are trying to do anyway… when Google decide to focus on Google TV (starting by updating from Honeycomb to Jelly Bean), it may be a success.

    • NathanBetzen

      Generic UI. The google TV UI, to my knowledge, is not available to be installed easily by manufacturers, so it’s not really part of the conversation for now.

      • Mathieu

        OK but most people using Android on TV are using a Google TV device with the Google TV UI.
        But it’s true that the Google TV UI is not available (not included in AOSP).
        As Google put more and more focus on Google TV, it may become available.

  • lc

    embiggen is not made up, it’s a perfectly cromulent word

  • Howard Rabb

    I know you said this runs android apps, does this mean I can finally watch netflix on the same device that I watch my other video content on?

    • NathanBetzen

      Yup! :)

  • Jezz_X

    And of course as usual all of the really nice crap like onlive and Netflix means you have to be in the USA and most android games suck on anything but touch screen. So not as good as it sounds

    • Sean Michael Wright

      If the USB ports allow for gaming controllers and other wireless peripherals then your second point is a nonissue.

      • Jezz_X

        umm no its totally a huge issue because android by default does not support those type of things if you want that you need to get the drivers for them compiled into the kernel the most android really supports is a keyboard, mouse and usb storage and even then mostly only fat32.

        And besides being able to plug them in does not mean that the games can use them ie: angry birds would not work with a usb joystick even it id did work with android

        • Guest

          Android (by default) very much does support them so long as you’re running ICS or higher.  Many emulators have supported bluetooth controllers for awhile, and now that there is a viable Android box for your TV, I’m quite positive that most emulators will be updated to take advantage of it.

    • Kristian Taus

      not true about Netflix. it can easily be set up outside the states

  • Theutmostgit

    Does it really matter what the boot up time is?

    Sure, I like the idea of a new elegant system as much as the next techie geek.
    BUT, those of us who’ve been using a dedicated HTPC for the last 10years don’t really care about the boot up time or what it looks like. My HTPC goes for months at a time without a restart.WAKEUP time ~ 1second… (faster than our old school DVD player)
    Still, I’d like to see one of these in the flesh and play with the remote & 10′ interface to see if it is as good as I hope it to be :)

  • Scott Wallace

    embiggen is so good, it’s scrumtrulescent.

  • Fraserb94

    Did…did he just call the BIOS screen ugly?

  • Joe Wilson

    Ahh you should of used some of the confluence lite mod themes I created. sigh.. j/k … good read..  hope this machine stacks up.. looking forward to getting my hands on one and giving it a try.. small compact and has android goodness along with XBMC ability. can’t beat it for the price either..

  • Rockerc Harley

    Love to have a games library in XBMC similar to XBMC4Xbox but with a proper database and metadata plus artwork scraped from online sources.

    XBMC really has the potencial to be the best launcher GUI for Android on set-top boxes and Smart TVs if games and applications scraping to an SQL database for other Android apps is added.

    Future Android based game consoles like OUYA could also use XBMC as a launcher GUI for the same reason.

    All that is missing to make XBMC perfekt in my mind is that and an integrated HTML5 (WebKit)

  • Vadim Marchenko

    I cant wait to buy OUYA and install XBMC on it !!!!!!!!!! If you guys would work together to install your software on OUYA out of the box  that would be …. 
    Every one else would have to go away from the market…. 

  • Bumble Beard

    “Enlarging” was the word you were after. My Original Xbox has been gathering dust for 5+ years but when my Viewsonic failed I powered her up again and installed Xbmc4xbox.

    Worked perfectly (apart from HD), I’ve resisted spending hundreds of pounds on a “HTPC” because to me it’s a backward step, Rasperry pi provided a glimmer of hope but is underpowered, and who really wants a PCB and IR cards under their TV.

    Seems XBMC for Android is the holy grail, and I can see this platform being the major development platform not long from now. If only the XIOS had optical out, oh well I’m still going to get one to tide me over. Can’t wait for milkdrop in 1080p :)

  • Brendan

    The Ouya is the main reason this excites me. I’ll finally have an XBMC machine in front of every TV.

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  • bizoooo

    Too bad the Pivos is apparently garbage. The reviews on Newegg (and elsewhere) aren’t kind. Bummer–I was stoked at the idea. Maybe the the OUYA will deliver.