Despite the sudden glut of video streaming services, the joint Redbox-Verizon initiative presses on. And, according to GigaOm, up next for the $8/month service will be Google TV and Roku clients. Given the Android set-top’s limited penetration, having failed to land on the “majority” of televisions, and upcoming retirement of Flash I’m somewhat surprised Redbox Instant has prioritized gTV ahead of 5 million Rokus… but perhaps it’s a simple(r) matter of porting their existing Android app over developing for a new platform (that I know has caused significant challenges for another manufacturer in this space). At the moment, Amazon Prime Instant meets most of our all-you-can-eat streaming needs and I’m not aware of many Redbox Instant subscribers in my circle. Perhaps, if they build it, the customers will come.
Archives For Roku
As we’d previously reported, the new Roku 3 has indeed launched with a refreshed UI and audio-capable remote control. The 3 takes over the Roku 2 XS‘s top slot in their lineup, running a competitive $100. In fact, the Roku 2 XS is no longer present in the company’s model comparison chart. Like its predecessor, the Roku 3 remote incorporates Hillcrest Labs Wii-esque motion control capabilities for gaming purposes – such as Angry Birds Space. But, the ways in which the remote communicate are new to Roku’s set-top box line. In place of Bluetooth, Roku is now using WiFi Direct – a similar and possibly ascendent technology that we’ve been tracking and potentially one piece of the Roku Miracast puzzle. Another remote innovation is the inclusion of an audio jacks (and pair of bundled Roku-purple earbuds) for “private listening.” The way I understand it, inserting a headset (theirs or yours) into the remote will redirect audio output from television to the handheld, with volume controlled via rocker buttons. It’s an innovative feature, but probably not one that would be appreciated in our household – especially given the duplicity of Roku and tablet apps/channels.
On the hardware front, as Roku’s high-end model, they’ve decided to do away with analog and standard def connectivity options… leaving a sole HDMI jack to handle both video and audio transmission duties. And, speaking of transmission, both Ethernet and dual-band 802.11n are provided for connectivity. We’re told this is the most powerful Roku ever… although the company didn’t get into component details, so we’ll circle back once someone cracks one open. Aesthetically, the Roku 3 is certainly the most beautiful one yet and they’ve come such a long way from the original single-channel Netflix box sourced from off-the-shelf parts. While we can’t say for certain, we suspect that Bould Design was once again tapped to move the product forward. But, beyond visual design, this Roku model is also somewhat heavier to prevent HDMI cables from pulling it across the television stand. And, perhaps, to inspire a higher quality feel. Continue Reading…
As promised back at CES, Time Warner Cable’s newest set-top box is a Roku… and the free “Channel”, comprised of up to 300 channels, is now available to all currently shipping Roku devices – which start a mere $50. As you might expect, access to TWC on Roku requires a traditional cable subscription – and supposedly only works in regions served by TWC. However, unlike Comcast Xfinity or Verizon FiOS TV on the Xbox 360, a TWC broadband account is not required.
Don Wegeng took a look at TWC TV on Roku, and while his initial reaction was disappointment due the lack of On Demand content (compared to the iOS app), he seems pleased overall with the speed of navigating the available live channels and the quality of HD content – once the higher res stream snaps in after a few seconds. However, as you can see from his video walk-thru (below), SD content is rendered with both letterboxing and pillarboxing. Yuck. But, all in all, not a bad first cut. And surely better than every other cable company’s non-existant Roku offering. Continue Reading…
Sadly, I’ve got no imagery to share (at this time). But we believe our intel to be rock solid… and have learned the incoming Roku 3 remote control includes a headphone jack that “makes it easy for anyone to enjoy a private listening experience.” While I contemplate if that innovative feature is actually useful, let me also share that the RF remote retains motion control capabilities for a Wii-esque experience. For use with the pre-loaded Angry Birds Space… and whatever else suits your fancy from the Channel Store. Speaking of which, we do have confirmation that the UI has been refreshed – featuring new Search functionality front and center. On the hardware front, the Roku 3 sports 1080p and dual-band wireless, in addition to ethernet support. And hopefully this “fast” and “powerful” new hardware provides additional capabilities such as Miracast and additional codec support for that USB port. Stay tuned…
UPDATE: And the Roku 3 is now official!
Roku’s been updating their website this week… and just accidentally spilled the beans on the Roku 3, given this new support site. We presume the new model is the same 4200x Engadget turned up via the FCC a few weeks back. Of course, beyond a name and model number, we’re most interested in new functionality. And perhaps the Roku 3 sports the beefier processing power required to run YouTube and overdue UI refresh. Further, we may be looking at a Broadcom chip that will also power Miracast. Regardless, we can’t imagine the wait will be long now… given the support rep volunteered March 6th availability.
UPDATE: We’ve got new intel, posted here – covering both Roku 3 hardware and software enhancements.
UPDATE 2: The Roku 3 is now here!
A random web search turned me on to some interesting Roku job openings, emphasizing content relationships and recommendations. Individually, maybe they’re not so compelling. But from a holistic standpoint, perhaps these new positions shed a bit of light on Roku’s ambitions and decision to turn down an Amazon acquisition in favor of additional funding.
The first role is Roku Programming Director… to be located in Los Angeles. Which, of course, much of the content industry calls home. “The Director will survey the landscape of available content, plans and strategies” to assist “business development prioritize content acquisition efforts. ” Hm. By comparison, the Content Programming Manager will be based at Roku’s Nothern California headquarters and will basically function as a full-time recommendation engine: Continue Reading…
Within a few days of each other, Roku and TiVo launched Spotify music streaming apps a month or so ago. While both apps appear to be missing Spotify Radio, the difference in launch speed is dramatic… yet representative of their respective architectures.
As you can see from the video above, the TiVo Spotify app takes over thirty seconds to load while the Roku app is up and playing music in about 5 seconds. TiVo’s app may be visual richer, once it finally opens, but the sluggish interaction is further hindered without TiVo Slide or smarthphone keyboard support… unlike Roku’s integration of their virtual keyboard. Whether or not this is TiVo’s fault is mostly irrelevant as it’s ultimately their (customer’s) problem. And it’s somewhat disappointing that a top-of-the-line TiVo Premiere XL4 ($400, plus service fees) can’t keep up with a diminutive and inexpensive Roku ($80). Apps may not be TiVo’s primary selling point, but it’s frequently their differentiator over the competing cableco’s DVR…
As I alluded to yesterday, it’s unfortunate that I feel the need to colocate a Roku with every TiVo to get a more pleasing (and stable) experience in accessing some of the very same channels (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu Plus). Of course, that’s looking at the glass as half empty. The alternate perspective is that Roku continues to offer the best bang for the OTT buck. Here’s to hoping TiVo’s next line of DVRs truly live up to that “one box” billing.
Roku remains our top choice in the over-the-top streamer category. Yeah, an interface overhaul is long overdue and we could use a few more tent pole channels (such as YouTube or ESPN3), but Roku provides the best bang for the buck in this category. Especially the 720p Roku LT and Roku HD which clock in at a mere $50-$60 bucks. In fact, the Roku LT earned box-of-the-year honors in 2011 and we’ve lost count of how many Rokus we’ve purchased as gifts (often with a Netflix subscription and a suggestion to check out Plex). Well the folks at Roku facilitated an upgrade to a Roku 2 XS for coverage purposes, thus freeing up my Roku LT for a giveaway. And entering is as easy as it gets — simply leave a comment if you want in. (US residents in the lower 48 only, please.) We’ll choose one winner at random in a few days. Good luck!