Roku’s mobile apps see significant updates this week, featuring a flatter, more minimalistic appearance and the introduction of universal content search. Sound familiar? The handy universal search isn’t new to Roku, but it is new to the app – which is ultimately a more efficient location. And, beyond video availability, it also looks like we’ll be treated to metadata in the form of actor filmographies to explore. Of course, the compelling existing features of beaming photos to the big screen and direct channel launch remain. Yet we still pine for Miracast. The 3.0 iOS app update is available in iTunes for iPhone and iPad, with the refreshed Android app having hit Google Play.
Archives For Roku
As we revealed about a week ago, Roku will shortly release an updated Streaming Stick. And, by way of TechHive, the $50 price point, retirement of MHL, and power via microUSB details have all been confirmed.
Sadly, there’s no mention of Miracast screen mirroring functionality… but Roku’s mobile apps will soon inherit the streamer’s universal search capabilities. The “New” Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI Version) is now available for pre-order with shipping and store availability expected in early April. While the new HDMI Roku Streaming Stick will replace the Roku 1 on Best Buy’s shelves, as indicated by BBY Insider, that $50 model will remain in Roku’s lineup (for those without HDMI).
You know Mohu, the Leaf antenna guys. Well, like Channel Master, they’re looking beyond the aerial and have cooked up an Android streamer paired with an OTA tuner. “Mohu Channels” may have launched as a Kickstarter campaign, but we suspect this is more marketing than fundraising. So those of us awaiting a Roku-esque device with over-the-air capabilities will have something to evaluate come summer.
The small, oblong device, with both Ethernet and 802.11a/b/g/n, runs Android with a custom guide skin, unifying television listings with our preferred web shortcuts and apps from the Goole Play store – similar to what Channel Master has done with DVR+ in listing Vudu as “channel” 200. There’s no mention of an EPG subscription fee and early bird pricing runs a modest $79 — pretty good when you consider that included universal RF/IR QWERTY remote with “air mouse” functionality. Unfortunately, we’re only talking a single tuner here and there’s no mention of potential DVR capabilities… although there is an unaccounted for USB port.
Via BBY Insider, we’ve learned that Best Buy intends to replace the Roku 1 on store shelves with a revised Roku Streaming Stick come April. Unlike the poorly received first gen Streaming Stick that ran $100, may or may not have been MHL-compatible, and relied on a partner television’s (or projector’s) remote for control, the new agnostic version will be hitting the streets at $50… including remote. Further, the 2014 HDMI Stick sports USB connectivity – which we suspect will be utilized for power as seen with Google’s Chromecast. And, speaking of Chromecast, we wonder if Roku will finally pull the trigger on Miracast screen mirroring. It should go without saying that Roku’s existing 1200+ “channels” (of varying quality and interest) are confirmed for the ride.
According to Bloomberg, Roku is contemplating a 2014 IPO but… “a decision to move ahead hasn’t been made, and the company hasn’t selected a lead banker.” Personally, I still believe their best exit strategy remains an acquisition and that they passed on the most prominent of suitors in Amazon – to both companies detriment. Roku’s largest challenge on the business side is that they pimp low cost, low margin hardware with insignificant recurring fees (on video/channel affiliate earnings). But licensing their appilicious platform itself may provide a way out. And, while the Streaming Stick is a failure, Roku TV looks to have legs and, pre-release, is already more noteworthy than Vudu’s similarly attempted pivot. As to others that might benefit, well LG is out having landed webOS. And Samsung’s already solid smart TV platform will be bolstered by Boxee skunkworks. Not to mention their best bet isn’t a sole television manufacturer but, rather, a company like Echostar/DISH (a Roku partner) or Rakuten (think Kobo) looking to expand into new markets.
Now that the Vegas dust has settled, we’re finally caught up on the bloggable topics and have collated the bulk of our CES coverage in this handy bulleted list. Until next year!
Smart TV & Streaming
- LG Compromises webOS with Interactive Advertising
- MyWayTV Mates Roku Streaming Stick With Antenna
- Super Joey & Joey Apps To Extend DISH Hopper
- TV OS Wars: Welcome to the Front Line
- Roku TV Launching This Fall
- Tablo OTA DVR Now Available For Pre-Order
- The Evolution Of Vizio Internet Apps
- Alticast HDMI Stick Shown Running Cox UI and Android
- TiVo Android Streaming: “In The Coming Months”
- TiVo Coming To Roku?!
- Cisco Demos New “Proof-of-Concept” TV App
From CES, The Digital Media Zone got their hands on some very interesting screengrabs… showing what looks to be a TiVo app running on Roku. No, not the full-fledged, cloud-based TiVo UI ported by ActiveVideo that we filmed at the Cable Show. Rather, this sports a more traditional Roku interface that appears to replicate TiVo Mini functionality in piping both live and recorded content to another television. However, given what I know of Roku’s platform, I’d imagine the technology at play is more akin to TiVo’s iOS apps in requiring a TiVo Roamio or Stream to transcode the content into something a bit more efficient than the raw MPEG2 that TiVo DVRs record. This would be a huge win for customers, such as myself, even though a service fee isn’t out of the question for the virtual client, as seen with DirecTV and DISH. Stay tuned?
Update: As Takeagabu points out in the comments, the Roku channel may just be an endpoint for TiVo’s network DVR to be offered by cable companies and not necessarily an option made available to retail customers. I know I’d pay for it…