Roku Announces the Non-Box Settop Box

| Product News

Roku announced on Wednesday the Roku Streaming Stick, a settop box the size of a USB flash drive rather than, say, a settop box. The device includes WiFi, a processor, memory, and the software necessary to deliver Internet streaming content to your TV without another box, without cables, and without the need for external power.

Roku Streaming Stick

Roku Streaming Stick

The caveat is that it will require TV’s equipped with MHL-enabled HDMI ports, a new technology that delivers power through HDMI ports that’s not yet available in the wild. Best Buy announced that its Insignia line of TVs with MHL will roll out in 2012 in time for the Roku Streaming Stick. Roku said that all told, more than 100 vendors have committed to MHL.

Roku’s popular line of settop boxes deliver streaming content from companies like Netflix to TVs. It’s comparable to Apple’s Apple TV settop box, but for third party content.

The announcement comes in the thick of rumor season for an integrated TV set that Apple is reportedly working on. Google is also pushing its own Google TV integrated software for TVs, but Roku has been very successful with its line of settop boxes. The promise of no cables, no footprint, and no power supply could be enough to keet Roku competitive should Google TV gain traction or Apple unleash its own TV set this year.

Roku hasn’t announced pricing for the device, but the company’s current product line is priced between US$49.99 and $99.99. It will be available in the second half of 2012.

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Trying to understand this. I really don’t think this gimmicky form factor adds anything practical.

“About the size of a standard USB drive” Hardly, if the picture is any indication.  Being a chunky stick will probably cause grief, as mosty HDMI placement assumes a flexible cable.

So, why? This device isn’t intended to be used with a laptop, doesn’t really need portability, and is at the mercy of the set’s design and MHL spec requirements. Users will look at the HDMI connector and assume its compatible.

A quick search of the web reveals this headline: “Roku Streaming Stick Aims to Make Dumb TVs “Smart”” but most future sets (with MHL) are bound to be internet-ready; I just read somewhere else that practically all sets >37” and larger being produced today are.

It doesn’t come with a separate remote, apparently getting instructions thru MHL. Implementation will probably vary or be ‘lowest-common denominator.’

So it may be released (or re-released) with a) optional A/C brick, b) a F/M HDMI cable/right-angle adapter and/or c) remote. Any and all of which negate the original design premise.

I might add that initial feedback on the Roku blog isn’t all fawning.

There’s my USD 0.02

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