Today the Kodi team has released the first alpha of the software's next big update, v18 "Leia", which started development in late 2016, even before v17 "Krypton" had been released as final. With v17, we saw Kodi come to the Microsoft Store, and at the end of 2017 it become available on Xbox One, bringing it back to the Xbox platform.
Kodi v18 is focused on stability and usability with huge rewrites of the code to achieve this. Kodi first started out as a enthusiasts media player for the original Xbox, and has since been developed to work across almost every major operating system available including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and more.
With v18, DRM support is being included for the first time. XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen hopes that by adding support for "low-level DRM", it will provide an incentive for legitimate content providers to offer their videos "in a protected environment". It is important to note that DRM support does not remove any existing functionality of content playback, but is instead an additional feature.
Here are some of the new features in Kodi v18 alpha 1 highlighted in the release blog post:
The video playback which is of course where Kodi shines. Once designed for the old XBOX and old video standards there wasn’t really taken lot in account with future standards and the massive increasement of video resolution and new codecs. With future in mind work started to redesign this section and to split it from into its own component to not be hindered with whatever happens in the user interface or other parts. Making the sure video gets the highest CPU/GPU priority over anything else happening makes sure you don’t get stuttering video or audio when navigating. This sounds so obvious to do however this wasn’t done or even possible in the past. Parallel to that, parts are reworked to be a lot more efficient and need way less CPU while gaining quality. Higher resolutions like 4K and 8K are also kept in mind next to HDR and new video codecs once they become available.
DRM (Digital Rights Management)
With the work above being done in the video player a possibility came up to also allow something that opens Kodi up for using it in combination with DRM protected content. These days it’s quite common for content owners and providers to protect their content with encryption. With v18 we added the ability to also play this content as it was actually intended by the DRM system. Depending on the used hardware and included license you can now playback this content which usually also comes with a subscription service. Instead of the sometimes clunky apps a possibility would be to just use the trusted Kodi environment to watch what they have to offer. There are already several add-ons available from our repository that already use this capability and we certainly hope more will follow and that content providers will make their service available as official add-on.
Music section also gained lots of improvement for those who cares a lot about having a clean music library. Going through the code and scanning options a better understanding was gained on the past intentions and redone in a more structured way. The same accounts in a smaller part for video library although that was in a better maintained state. What is new however in v18 is that similar to music we can now also use the embedded tags and fill the library based on that instead of using file names. For now this has been disabled by default as there’s simply a lack of really well defined standard and proper easy to use video tagging software. We hope with Kodi now gaining this ability a gained interest will make these available.
Next part is the great feature of Kodi to use it as your Live TV and recording front-end. It’s one of the less well known features as it requires certain knowledge and thinkering to set this up however once it works you’ll love it. To be able to use this you’ll need some extra hardware like a USB tuner or a network tuner like HDHomerun to get the cable or ether signal converted to a video stream. This in combination with one of the PVR server software options like VNSI or TVHeadend (more options are available) you instantly gain a very pleasant TV experience. What has been done over time is improving the usability and stability of this component and trying to make it a great replacement for your normal cable/ether set top box.
In addition to the above improvements, the Kodi team has also highlighted that they have made more than 6140 code chunk changes, more than 1911 pull-requests (collection of commits that were included in one go), changed more than 7776 files, removed more than 350,000 and added more than 397,000 lines of code.
If you wish to try it out, the downloads are available here. However, as this is an alpha release, you may want to avoid installing it on your main Kodi system.