BOSTON, MASS - First there was iTunes, and it was good, but one needed to be at oneis computer, or an authorized computer, to listen to their music. Then there was iTunes Express. It allows one to stream to an audio device connected to the iTunes Express, and you still need to be at a computer to control your music. Now, Roku is hoping to help move music sharing to the next level with the Roku SoundBridge Network Music Player.
Sally Espinoza, Online Product Marketing Manager, gave us a demonstration of this device. In a nutshell, the SoundBridge acts as a dedicated iTunes playback station, the cool part being that you donit need to be anywhere near a computer to control the playback of your music.
Using the included remote control, you can access expected functions, such as play, pause, forward and rewind, but you can also access more advanced features, such as displaying track/album information, search for music, add a song to a playlist, as well as shuffle and repeat. All information is available on a large, bright vacuum fluorescent display.
According to Roku, the product is effectively running something akin to the its own version iTunes, developed with the help of Apple. Roku licensed the Digital Audio Access Protocol from Apple, the protocol that controls music sharing in iTunes, and is one of the first companies to do so.
Roku then developed its own client software that can take the music being streamed from iTunes and play it back through the SoundBridge Network Music Player. That client software is being run in an embedded operating system on Analog Deviceis Blackfin embedded DSP processor, a RISC-based processor.
Because Apple is not licensing out FairPlay, the DRM technology that controls iTunes Music Store downloads, you can not stream iTMS downloads to the Roku SoundBridge Network Music Player. The product will play back unprotected AAC files, as well as MP3, WAV, and AIFF files, the other formats supported by iTunes.
M2000 (Top) and M1000 (Bottom)
Both units features coax and optical digital audio out, as well as gold-plated RCA audio outputs. Connection to your network can be made via Ethernet, or an optional CompactFlash WiFi adapter. Although the design of the products complements the Mac, they can also be used with a PC.
Pricing for the M2000 is $499.99, and the M1000 is $249.99. The only difference between the units is the M2000 has a 512x32 pixel display, while the M1000 has a 280x16 display. Both units are expected to ship in late July.