Plex (also known as "Plexapp" or "Plex Media Center") is a partially open-source freeware media player for Intel-based Apple Macintosh computers. It has a 10-foot user interface design for the living-room TV. Its source code was initially forked from XBMC Media Center on May 21, 2008 which Plex today uses as an application framework platform for its GUI (Graphical User Interface) and media player part of their software. Similar to XBMC and Boxee, it is an alternative to Apple's Front Row for Mac, with skinnable and user-configurable interface.
Plex integrates content from iTunes and iPhoto (from the iLife software suite) as well as allows the user to manage all video, photos, music, and podcasts from a computer, optical disk, local network, and the Internet using an Apple or Harmony remote control. In 2009 the developers added their own 'app store' digital distribution platform called "Plex Online" with a growing list of community driven plugins for online content like Hulu, Netflix, and CNN video that are being distributed via "Plex Media Server" application which runs as a standa-alone software and media management interface.
Plex began as a free software hobby project but since 2010 has evolved into a (freeware) project that is owned and developed by a single for-profit startup company, (Plex, Inc.). It is a high tech company based in the United States that is responsible for the development of the Plex front-ends and back-end, its client–server model, and all accompanying software under the "Plex" trademark, as well as the exclusive copyright of the closed source software/code parts for both commercial and non-commercial use.
Plex supports a wide range of multimedia formats and includes features such as playlists, audio visualizations, slideshows, weather forecasts reporting, and an expanding array of third-party plugins. As a media center, Plex can play most audio and video file formats, as well as display images from many sources, including CD/DVD-ROM drive, USB flash drives, the Internet, and local area network shares. DVD playback is not yet fully integrated and requires the use of helper applications like Apple's DVD Player.
Through the processing power of modern Mac computer hardware, Plex is able to decode high-definition video up to 1080p. For older Macintosh computers, the software does not however support any hardware accelerated video decoding which means that users require a 2 GHz Intel Core 2 processor to decode the majority of 1080p videos encoded with the H.264 codec. Newer Apple models using Nvidia 9400M/GT320M/GT330M chipsets and Snow Leopard OS 10.6.3 or later does however benefit from H.264 hardware accelerated video decoding meaning that most of the decoding process is offloaded to the GPU.
Through its plugin system, Plex includes features such as YouTube and Apple movie trailer support, SHOUTcast, and more. Most plugin content (such as the Hulu and Netflix) is provided via a separate helper program called Plex Media Server, while some use an integrated Python runtime engine and plugin framework.
Plex Media Server is from closed source (contains proprietary code), however the other parts of Plex media center software are open-sourced and distributed under the GNU General Public License. Plex's open source code is hosted on GitHub. Plex media center and media player source code was initially based upon XBMC Media Center, which it uses as its application framework. The founder of Plex, Elan Feingold, was actually part of the official XBMC development team for a short while, but tension over the rest of XBMC's developers' strict adherence to the GPL and their open-source software mindset was one of the factors that led Elan (Plex founder) to leave the XBMC project and create the Plex fork.