Apps are all the rage. If you have a smart phone or tablet you know that apps are how you use your device. No matter what you want to do on the various mobile platforms, you have to have apps to do it since there are very few built-in features to these devices.
Cable and satellite companies have already started offering different apps for their various services. Whether it's Time Warner's TWC TV app which allows you to stream live programming to your devices within your home, or Dish Network's Sling app for controlling Sling-enabled DVRs, the home entertainment and mobile worlds are permanently linked together through the use of these pieces of software.
Since announcing the forthcoming "Q" Media Center DVR, Ceton has been hard at work on an app of their own. It's currently in the early beta stages but even though all of the intended features aren't yet available, it's shaping up to be much more than just a remote control app for your Media Center home theater PC (HTPC). While we'll have to continue to wait for the hardware, we can take a look at an early version of the companion app now.
I know I mentioned it above, but it's important to point out that this is a beta. In the few weeks that I've been using the app, there are problems and issues but the developers are working with the beta testers to fix these issues as quickly as possible so that once the app is ready for general release you won't see any of these issues. With that important information stated, let's move on.
Ceton has developed their app for all of the current major mobile platforms including iOS, Android and Windows Phone. While anyone can download the app from their respective marketplace, you'll need to be a part of the beta in order to get your hands on the installer for your HTPC. This application is required in order for your mobile device to talk to your PC so installing the app without it is pointless.
Getting the app up and running is easy. Simply install the companion services on your HTPC and download the app from your marketplace. Once the companion services are running, the app on your mobile device should detect your HTPC. You have to be on your home network in order for auto-detect to work but if for some reason you can't find your HTPC on the network, Ceton has given you the ability to add PCs manually. You can also setup remote access to your HTPC so that you can manage your recordings and access other functions from outside your home network.
Once everything is setup you gain access to a full list of features. First and foremost is the ability to manage your recorded TV. From scheduling series and individual recordings to actually starting playback. You can also view upcoming recordings and see the most recent ones as well.
My favorite feature of the recorded TV section of the app has to be "Premieres". This tab will allow you to view all of the upcoming series premieres that are listed in your guide. This includes season and series premieres. Since we no longer watch commercials in our home, it's hard to know when our favorite series are starting up again. Using the Premieres tab, that no longer happens. As an example, I had no idea that Futurama was starting season seven this month. Now I do and I've scheduled the series to record!
The movies section of the app provides access not only to movies that might be showing on TV but also to movies in your own collection if you've ripped DVDs or Blu-rays to a hard drive. You only need to set up the directories in the companion services app and you're ready to go. The mobile app will display cover art, a synopsis and cast information. Like with TV you can begin playback or schedule the movie to record if it's on in the future.
Besides movies and recorded TV, Ceton's companion app provides a full remote control. This will work with both your main HTPC and any extenders that are connected to it. You can't turn extenders on, but once they're connected, you can switch to them easily and push movies and TV to them as well.
There are other features shown in the app that aren't yet active but Ceton has said that they'll be moving along with adding more as the beta goes on. Some of the listed features look quite interesting and I can't wait to get my hands on them.
Overall, the app is shaping up nicely and is going to be a great addition to anyone with an HTPC. Ceton hasn't restricted the use of the app to their tuner customers so even if you're using an over-the-air ATSC tuner you can enjoy the app once it becomes generally available. There's no word yet on pricing for the application but from what I've seen so far, even if the company decides to charge a fee for it, it'll be worth the price of admission.