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Plex going freemium – is it the end of the world?

I know I am not alone using Plex for media consumption. I would say it is by far my favorite Media Center Software, much because it handles all my media in the background (getting information about movies and TV-series episodes) and then allows me to access it on my iPad, Nexus 7, phone, desktop and so on. Add the support for “channels” where you find stuff like Hulu, Netflix (don’t ask me how well that works as I cannot use those here in Sweden) and it really is one piece of software I cannot be without. 

The nice part so far has been that it is mostly free. The server software which I have running on a small server PC dedicated for it (I have it on a Synology 1511 also but I felt it had a bit to little oompf to allow it to transcode the material when needed for streaming) is free as is the players for Windows, Mac and  Linux. The place where Plex has been earning some money has been the mobile apps which you can get for around $5, well worth the money.

A few days ago Plex announced that they would add a Plex Pass-feature where you could pay either £3.99/month or £30/year. The benefits of the Plex Pass are (according to themselves of course):

1) First of all, PlexPass gets you early access to new features. We’ll be making select new features available to PlexPass members earlier than we otherwise would, and you’ll get to play with them and give us feedback and suggestions. Make your friends jealous. (And yes, we have a juicy new feature to get this kicked off in style.)

2) We’re going to be introducing some premium features. Fancy, shiny things with lots of sparkle (and not the sort that comes with fangs and neck affinity). As a PlexPass member, you’ll get free access to those features while we’re testing them out.

3) PlexPass members automatically get access to private forums for discussing these new features. There’s another forum for voting on bugs & features to help us with prioritization. And there is another one we’re calling for people needing a bit of extra help with issues they may be running into. Hey, you’re a PlexPass member – we’ll give you some extra love!

4) Last, but not least, PlexPass members get discounts on premium features once they’re made available to the general public.

I found it interesting to see some of the responses to this announcement. While there are some concerns that are valid, for example what kind of premium features are we talking about that will cost money, it was fascinating to see some people complain that $30 for a year is too much! $30 … for early access to new features, features you would get anyway if you didn’t pay …. $30 for a piece of software that for many of us are almost indispensable … sometimes I feel that the “everything must be free”-mentality is driving me nuts since it is devaluating the work people put into creating great software. 

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Plex has already rolled out a early-access feature to new Plex Pass-users: a brand spanking new HTL5-based webinterface. I’ve been testing it a bit and it is really nice. Fast, smooth and works relatively well. The nice thing is that this interface will be rolled out to everyone (for free) soon. So no-one looses out – just us Plex Pass users get a bit early start playing with it.

So – the world isn’t going to end. Plex isn’t erecting a paywall and start charging for its software. Yes, it is still possible that they may screw things up by creating and focusing on premium features that cost money instead of improving the core software but let’s give them the benefit of a doubt, ok? I rather have them getting enough funds this way to keep going than to see them forced to start pushing stuff like ads inside the software. 

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