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Kodi 18 'Leia' release date date and beta features

Kodi 17 Krypton hasn't been out for that long, but already attention has been turned to the next release, version 18. This time around, the XBMC Foundation has not let the community vote for a codename. 

Instead, the team decided that there could be only one choice, Leia. Named in honour of Carrie Fisher, who passed away in 2016, the XBMC Foundation announced via a blog post that it "thought there could not be a more fitting tribute than to name a version of Kodi after one of the most butt-kicking princesses in cinematic history". 

It's a fine choice in our opinion, and even more fitting given that the 25 May 2017 marked the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope.

It's early days for Kodi 18 Leia, but stay tuned over the coming months for all the latest news about the media player's new features.

[Update: Kodi's recent annual conference has given us a glimpse of where the open-source software might be heading in the future. We've added the information to the page below.]

Kodi 18 Leia release date

Kodi 18 Leia has only just entered beta, with no official release date on the horizon. It's going to be months, rather than weeks, before we see the final version hit our computers and set-top boxes.

It's not all bad news, as a beta version of Kodi 18 Leia is already available. You can download it today from the official Kodi Download site. You need to select the version you want (Windows, Linux, etc.), and then click the Development Builds tab. This will give you the option to download the latest Nightly build (32-bit or 64-bit) of Kodi.

Installing Kodi 18 over an existing Kodi 17 build will perform an upgrade. Be careful doing this, as beta software is not always very stable and you may have problems getting some add-ons to work.

Kodi 18 Leia confirmed features

With Kodi 18 only just in beta, the list of new features isn't huge at the moment. You can keep up-to-date with what's being added, by checking the Kodi 18 (Leia) changelog. There's not a huge amount on the list at the moment, but expect that to change as development increases pace.

Android Leanback suggestions, search and voice typing

While the changelog has mostly minor changes, for now, Kodi has implemented a few big changes for the Android version of its product, including Android TV. Given that Android TV powers a lot of the top Kodi boxes, these changes are going to impress a lot of people.

First, Kodi content will now appear on the main Android TV home screen, alongside content from big providers, such as YouTube and Netflix. According to the Kodi blog introducing the feature, you'll get suggested content, including random unwatched movies and episodes, and music albums.  

Even better, Android TV's Google voice search will now integrate with your Kodi library, so you can just speak into your remote and find the content you want. Currently, Kodi will search for content by movie and TV show title, actors, albums or artists. Any add-ons or plugins are not searched, as this feature integrates with the Kodi library only.

You can also use your voice to 'type', speaking what you want to enter, rather than having to use the on-screen keyboard. That's a huge improvement and a great feature on the Apple TV. Check out the feature in action in the video below.

64-bit Windows version

Kodi v18 will be the first version of the software to have a 64-bit Windows version

The main benefit of this will be that the software will be able to make use of more than 4GB of RAM, which should allow the software to run much quicker on  machines with higher amounts of RAM due to its increased ability to cache more data. 

The development will also move the software closer to its future UWP version, which will be available on the Xbox One console. 

Xbox One version

The Kodi team has confirmed that it is working on a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) version of the software, which will allow the software to come to the Xbox One console for the first time. However at present progress is slow, and it's not been confirmed that this Xbox One version will arrive in time for v18. 

The development is something of a return to Kodi's roots, since the software (then called the Xbox Media Player) was originally built as a means to play picture and movie files on a modded original Xbox console. 

However, the Kodi team has been outspoken about what a challenge the UWP version of the software will be, so it will take some time for a UWP version of the software to be released. 

What we'd like to see

Kodi 18 Leia Skin

Kodi updated the skin from Confluence to Estuary when upgrading from Kodi 16 to Kodi 17. We haven't seen any evidence that there'll be a change with Kodi 18, and Estuary is the skin in the current version. That's not a particularly bad move, in our opinion; besides, there are loads of other skins that you can download.

More legal content

Kodi's reputation is rather undeserved in some quarters: the core software is completely legal, it's more that third-party developers have written dubious add-ons. Unfortunately, there's no easy way for Kodi to block these add-ons without stopping legal add-ons from working.

But, how good would it be if there was more legal content via official add-ons, such as a Netflix or iPlayer app? That's the great hope, and we could be moving one step closer. According to an interview with TorrentFreak, Kodi's developers have said, "Our platform has a lot of potential and we are looking into attracting more legal and official content providers. Additionally, we’re looking into adding low-level DRM that would at least make it more feasible to gain trust from certain providers." 

It's a topic that reoccured at Kodi's 2017 Devcon conference. As detailed on the official Kodi blog, one of the days included a discussion on how the software could support the provision of DRM-protected content. Kodi has no interest in supplying DRM content itself, but it wants to be able to act as a platform to allow users to watch their legally purchased content from DRM sourcos . 

There have been no more official announcements, but keep watching this space for the latest developments.

Steam/game integration

This one's a little more far-fetched, but we'd love to see Steam integration hit Kodi, so that you can launch games directly from the media streamer. Currently, Steam has its Big Picture Mode, designed for TVs (see our guide on how to build a console-style gaming PC for more information), but one interface for media and games would be perfect.

An easier to use add-on browser

If Kodi is to make more of its legal add-ons, then why not make the interface a little neater? Currently, the official add-on browser is split into lots of little sections, but an app store-style browser would make it a lot easier to find content. Kodi has added an add-on browser to its website, but a more useful in-app version would be better.

Better multi-room features

We'd love to see a Sky Q-style method of easily sharing Kodi content between multiple devices. For example, starting to watch a TV show on one device, you'd get a prompt to continue watching on a different device. While it's fairly straightforward to share a Kodi library between multiple devices already, a neater interface specifically designed for this would be brilliant. Likewise, having multi-room audio baked in, rather than available as an add-on would be fantastic.

  • If you're looking to try out Kodi for yourself, these are the best Kodi boxes around.
David Ludlow

David Ludlow is a Freelance Journalist and Home Technology Editor. Starting life on the consumer PC press back in 1998, David has been writing about the forefront of technology for the past 20 years. David has edited Computer Shopper and launched Expert Reviews. He has written a number of books on PC building and maintenance. He looks after all things smarthome and home appliances for Trusted Reviews.