Archives For Roku

roku-shipping

Despite Apple TV’s recent update, we still recommend Roku for folks seeking a basic Netflix streamer (with benefits). After all, you can pretty much purchase two Rokus (starting @ $50) for the price of a single Apple TV ($99). And at such a reasonable price point, Roku also makes a great gift. Yet Roku could improve their out-of-box experience for the uninitiated.

At least some models ordered directly via roku.com are shipped in a rather non-distinct cardboard box… with a shipping label sullying the packaging and obscuring what a recipient will be receiving. I assume this is one of the ways in which Roku keeps prices low, including offering periodic free shipping, but picking up a higher end model from a retail outlet like Best Buy will result in more attractive packaging without a postal sticker.

Perhaps more problematic for a gift recipient is Roku’s insistence on creating an account with them prior to actually using the box. Adding insult to injury, a credit card is required. And there’s no way to skip this step via their online registration wizard. Of course, I understand Roku’s desire to simplify the app buying experience. But even Apple TV doesn’t require an iTunes account to operate. While it’s not documented on the registration page, Roku suggests folks uncomfortable with the policy create a shell PayPal account or call into support to bypass the requirement. Again, not the greatest out-of-box experience for someone who’s possibly never heard of Roku.

roku-account

roku-2-versus-xds-appletv

VentureBeat’s run a rather provocative headline that declares “Roku is kicking the cable industry’s butt.” Yet, it’s not exactly clear how they could be.

First thing first, we’re big fans of Roku. In fact, we were amongst the very first to purchase their original Netflix streamer, currently own several modern boxes, and named the $50 Roku LT as “a box of the year” in 2011. Yet, even with all that love, we just don’t see any way that Roku could be kicking cable’s butt.

In terms of numbers, Roku has moved about 2.5 million boxes. That represents one time sales and a small but growing recurring revenue share. Beyond that, Roku isn’t actually profitable. Meaning they spend more money than they ingest. Compared to say a Comcast. Yeah, they may have lost 19,000 cable customers last quarter but that still leaves them will more than 22 million households… who pay them each and every month for premium television services. Continue Reading…

roku-android-remote

After trailing third party developers, Roku’s finally responded with a Android virtual remote of their own. Now available in the Market, the Roku app is both visually and functionally similar to its iPhone predecessor.

Turn your Android device into a control center for your Roku streaming player. Launch your Roku channels, navigate your Roku player, control media playback and find new channels to enjoy.

Roku indicates the app should work on all Android devices running 2.1 or higher, and of course the smartphone and Roku must be on the same wireless network. Not bad at all considering Roku set-top boxes start at a mere $50 and the new app is free. Yet, as nice an addition as this may be, with an imminent Apple TV refresh, we’re left wondering when Roku might announce additional top flight content partners… and deliver on their YouTube promise.

After only about two months in the App Store, Roku’s addressed my biggest complaint with their free virtual remote control. In addition to navigating one’s digital media streamer by swiping, Roku has now integrated a “standard” D pad option that responds to individual taps. While it does get the job done, the presentation seems a bit spartan – beyond what I assume are promotional Netflix, Pandora, and Crackle shortcuts that mirror the physical Roku LT remote. And speaking of physical remotes, not all contain the instant replay button – and this oversight should be a primary draw for Roku’s iPhone app. The updated app also includes faster Home screen loading and improved device discovery, having no difficulty locating my latest hardware. However, there’s still no sign of an official Android or iPad app. Should you have just such a need, check out Cassidy Napoli’s “Remoku” creation that enables Roku control via a web browser.

simpletv

Simple.TV is the retail DVR you wanted five years ago. And yet it’s still interesting enough to make my personal list of top product announcements coming out of CES 2012. Why? Because it’s a truly viable, inexpensive way to add digital video recording to your TV set-up without cable’s help. Maybe you remember the Replay TV? Or even those precious few DVD players available around 2004/2005 that imported guide data and sported DVR functions? The Simple.TV box does the same, but with a few twists.

Briefly described, Simple.TV is a bring-your-own-hard-drive DVR that slings over-the-air (OTA) and clear QAM cable content to various mobile devices and media extenders — sort of a sexier, evolved HDHomeRun… albeit, with  fewer tuners. Simple.TV doesn’t directly attach to your TV, but if you want to DVR stuff on the flat screen, you can always access the box via apps on your Roku, Boxee Box, Windows Media Center or Google TV device. The Simple.TV transcodes content to MPEG-4 with variable bit-rate streaming, and it makes any video, live or recorded, available through one of the company’s apps. CNET got a hands-on with the device, and found the iPad app in particular to be pretty slick.

Perhaps the best thing about Simple.TV is the price. The cost for the box is $149, and you can add on unlimited remote streaming for up to five users, as well as richer guide data and automatic recording for $4.99 a month via their Premiere Service. If you have cable TV service, you can connect the Simple.TV box to the coax along with your broadband connection. Or if you don’t, you can catch those over-the-air signals.

The cable DVR solution is certainly the simplest option for consumers out there, but for die-hard cord-nevers (like some of my neighbors), and college students or recent grads who don’t have the cash for a pay-TV subscription or premium-tier extras, Simple.TV is a cool DVR alternative. And it’s been a while since we’ve had an inexpensive one of those.

qwikster

Artwork and photograph via Jim Sheely.

As part of Roku’s “Streaming Stick” outreach, their team offered up interviews with CEO Anthony Wood. While we chose to pass on the opportunity, our pals over at GigaOm were more aggressive with their coverage… and dug up a few interesting nuggets in speaking to Wood (who you might recall created the ReplayTV DVR).

First, the Streaming Stick may land in the $50 – $100 price range — which is where we find the current stand alone Roku boxes. Further, the UI is said to be the same as what’s found on those very same boxes. Yet it’s not clear to me if this merely represents parity between the devices or that Roku is sticking with their existing simplistic presentation.

But what’s most interesting is GigaOm’s dive into Roku sales. The company had anticipated moving 3 million units by the end of the year. However, Roku ended up with about 2.5 million deployed boxes – despite a massive (and sometimes befuddling) advertising campaign and the introduction of a low priced $50 mass market streamer. As to why? From GigaOm, Wood:

cited Netflix’s fall stumbles as one reason that sales may have been below its goals.

Some context makes this even more interesting… in that Wood was a Netflix VP and the original video streaming box was spun out of Netflix to Roku along with both financial and personnel investment. And now, several years and many “channels” later, it appears Roku’s fate is still intrinsically linked to Netflix. Something any potential suitor should take into account.

The Roku iPhone Remote(s)

Dave Zatz —  December 27, 2011 — 8 Comments

roku-iphone-remote

Based on recent traffic, it’s clear many of you received Roku streaming hardware for Christmas or Hanukkah (with interest in a YouTube Channel… and content somewhat more racy). So we thought we’d take this opportunity to point out Roku’s brand-spanking new iOS remote app.

First off, Roku’s official app is free and therefore immediately worth a look for iPhone and iPod Touch owners. But, beyond the cost, we’ve found the remote highly polished for a v1 release – featuring a more efficient and powerful Roku Store experience than our Roku boxes actually offer via their television interface. Further, the virtual remote provides the priceless ‘instant replay’ button that’s not actually found on most Roku physical remotes – such as the one included with the $50 Roku LT. Yet there are a few areas that could use some improvement.

As a long time user of the very nice DVPRemote ($1.99), a third party Roku app, the official app is in desperate need of a virtual keyboard to enter credentials and search for content on various channels. Additionally, while some may appreciate swiping over tapping… many do not. And I’d personally like to see navigation “buttons” offered in a future upgrade. Again, Roku could follow the lead of DVPRemote by offering just such an option. But, in the interim, we’ll continue to recommend DVPRemote. Especially to those looking to control their Roku from an iPad. Continue Reading…