Roku Netflix Box: Open For (Additional) Business

Roku’s gone on the record and put a stake in the ground:

“We’re opening up the platform to anyone who wants to put their video service on this box,” says Wood. “We’re going to release the software developer kit, so anyone can publish any channel, and users can access web content on their TVs.”

Without revealing their sales figures and projections, I’m not certain how compelling an SDK would be for the major players (Hulu, YouTube) to develop something in a vaccuum. Certainly, some of the smaller sites, like a Jaman, might find this an appealing way to extend their brand. However, Roku really needs to be the one driving collaborative relationships to provide additional quality content. So Roku has an SDK and YouTube has an API… but who’s going to build it? Ultimately, it’s in Roku’s best interest to continue working the phones – there’s a much larger audience of potential Hulu and YouTube viewers than there are Netflix subscribers. Related, there’s been speculation that the box may be renamed at some point to deemphasize Netflix. Who, by the way, is now streaming CBS and Disney Channel television content.

9 thoughts on “Roku Netflix Box: Open For (Additional) Business”

  1. As NewTeeVee notes, the device would need a substantial interface overhaul (probably already far along) to support additional sites. The current UI is extremely minimal and mated to Netflix. It’s obviously too late to improve the remote…

  2. The box needs to add Hulu or Amazon VOD to make it compelling in my opinion. I have a Netflix Watch-Now plugin on my SageTV HTPC setup and use it occasionally (read not often) mostly because the content is so old except for the occasional tv show or classic movie I want to see.

    Does this device have the ability to do HD or is it locked into 480i? Can it run Java? I’m wondering if it could be “hacked” to act as an extender of sorts for one of the HTPC software programs.

  3. It is already doing 480p as far as I know, and early reports implied it can output higher definition resolutions – in fact, it has an HDMI jack.

    Not sure if it can run Java, but it’s a Linux platform – I assume extender functionality could be offered. Which is a path the VuNow folks are going down on what looks to be similar small form factor hardware – though I suspect their TI chip is more capable, which may come with a higher price tag.

  4. Awesome. For all my complaining I must stand up and cheer Roku for realizing the lucrative gains to be made in the long tail. TiVo, Dash and all other walled gardens take note!

  5. Sorry, Todd – Dash is not a walled garden. We have an open API that will continue to evolve functionally. Tons of great apps and partners, including custom Trulia web searches and Weatherbug plus Gmail and Twitter connectivity. Additionally, we’ve made our GPL source code components available for download (as we should) from day 1.

  6. I’m waiting for someone to build DivX and Xvid support. $100 for a media bridge box is a great deal, throw in support for Netflix and I’m happy. Amazon, Hulu and everything else is just an after thought for me.

  7. Roku’s problem is going to be very limited buffer. I don’t understand why Netflix doesn’t support more robust buffering but other sites certainly do so.

    P.S. How come I’ve never heard about VuNow before? If it comes out, it seems to already be what Roku box wants to be (Amazon, online video, user video, etc.).

  8. Ivan, do we know for sure this is a hardware limitation and not a soft implementation? I haven’t seen or looked for Roku box tear down pics – I wonder what sort of memory is in there. And I wonder of the Netflix service on Xbox will also not make use of a buffer.

    As far as the VuBox, it came out of nowhere a few months ago and was announced as a $99 ‘do everything’ and I didn’t believe it and didn’t cover it. It’s since been renamed and the NewTeeVee did see a live demo, so it is real. However, no word on availability or if they’ll still be able to hit that $99 price point.

  9. Dave, Netflix doesn’t even buffer on a desktop to allow max quality, so I doubt 360 would be different from Roku or PC.

    With regards to 64MB buffer, it’s been confirmed in various sources online, even officially by Roku

    Posted by RokuTaylor (Wed May 21, 2008 12:46 am)
    “1) There is very little memory on the board. Just enough to buffer a few minutes of video if your bandwidth gets congested temporarily. Just enough flash memory for the software. Instant viewing is done by buffering the minimum video the box thinks it needs to avoid interruption due to variable bit rate encoding.
    Edit: The buffer is 64MB. 2-5 minutes of video, depending on the stream.
    2) If you have Windows and IE, go to choose ‘instant watch’. The video you stream to your PC is the identical stream we’re pulling to the box. So you can preview the quality without even having the box.

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