Kodi (formerly XBMC) has attracted an undeservedly bad rap outside media streaming circles, garnering a piracy-associated reputation that isn't quite merited — at least, in my opinion. Whatever you might believe, it looks like Sony might be taking a critical view of the project, too, as reports indicate that at least some of the company's recent Android TVs are actively blocking the app.
For the unfamiliar, Kodi is an open source, cross-platform streaming and media player solution that allows you to access and play local, network, and remote content. The UI has been extensively optimized over the last 15 years since the XBMC days to provide one of the best big-screen experiences out there, and it's been one of the most popular HTPC media playback applications for years.
Well done @SonyElectronics for actively preventing users from installing Kodi on their newer Android TVs. How grown up of you. Even their firmware in the TVs is broken. Guess we will suggest users to just buy something else that does work.
— Kodi (@KodiTV) January 4, 2019
The official Kodi project Twitter account pointed out Sony's deficiency a couple of days ago, but reports on the Kodi forums of issues installing and running the app from the Play Store go even further back to last year. A handful of affected enthusiasts believe they have discovered the cause of the problem: Sony seems to be blocking the package ID for the app from being installed/run. Supporting this theory is the fact that recompiling the app from scratch with a different ID allows it to work.
We'll be here when you're ready, Brian. https://t.co/927TdOTjXB
— Samsung US (@SamsungUS) January 4, 2019
Humorously enough, Samsung's official US Twitter account has jumped on Sony's snafu to encourage users to switch brands — unfortunately overlooking the fact that Samsung's TVs don't run Android TV, and can't use the Android Kodi app without an external device. Even so, anything that increases the pressure against Sony for this consumer-unfriendly move is a good thing.
Although the block was real, turns out it was done accidentally. Sony's Android TV builds on affected devices were blocking the package ID because they were detecting them as kernel objects at install. Sony plans on rolling out a fix that will allow Kodi to be installed again in its next update.
A firmware update is now rolling out to select Sony TVs that fixes the Kodi bug. The update also fixes an issue where lines may appear on the TV, and a bug where HDR doesn't appear when watching YouTube HDR content. More info is available here.