The channel makes it possible to share videos stored on a computer that has Plex installed with your Roku media player, and play back Internet video from a number of sources. Functionality to share music and photos is supposed to be added soon. Plex on Roku is currently available as a private channel with the channel code “PLEX” (check out the video embedded below this post for a guide on enabling private channels).
Plex is a media center solution similar to Boxee that has been gaining some momentum in recent months by adding support for a number of devices. The company has published applications for Android and iOS devices, and even optimized the experience for iPads and Honeycomb tablets. Third-party developers also succeeded at porting Plex to current-generation Apple TV devices that have been jailbroken. And Plex is working with LG to bring the media center to LG’s Smart TV Updater and other connected LG devices.
Roku users still need to run the Plex media server on their computer, which comes bundled with the Mac OS X version of Plex. Windows users can download a standalone server application instead. First user impressions seem to also suggest that you’ll need the latest version of the Plex media server to connect to your Roku. Sadly, when we tested the solution today, it was unable to actually stream any media — something that seems to have happened to others as well.
That being said, having access to Plex could potentially be a big boon for Roku users. Plex not only offers access to local content, but is also able to play Internet video from various sources through plugins. Some of this content is transcoded, which has helped users of iOS devices to access Flash-based video streams. This could also help to bring a lot of additional content to Roku devices, which don’t support Flash either. Roku users could, for example, use Plex to access videos from YouTube, something that has gotten much harder ever since Roku was forced to remove an unofficial YouTube channel last month.
Of course, transcoding of third-party media hasn’t always gone over well with device makers that try to forge alliances with content owners. PlayOn, for example, previously offered a Roku channel capable of playing free Hulu content, but Roku removed that channel around the time it started to carry Hulu’s premium content offering Hulu Plus.