September 25, 2013
Roku Revamps Its Devices, Lets Viewers Buy and Rent Content
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Roku Inc. announced a new feature yesterday which allows customers to buy or rent movies from their set-top boxes in a way similar to the Apple TV. Roku also refreshed three of its streaming boxes, the Roku LT, Roku 1 and Roku 2. These boxes feature an all new design and added functionality while the flagship Roku 3, introduced last April, remains unchanged.
One notable modification to the new line includes a headphone jack in the Roku 2 remote, a feature which was previously only available with the Roku 3. This jack allows viewers to listen to their programs with headphones without having to turn up the volume on their living room audio equipment.
The Roku 2 starts at $79.99 and is now available for pre-order. The Roku LT and Roku 1 will start at $49.99 and $59.99 respectively and are also available for pre-order. The company says they expect to have these devices in retail stores beginning in October.
Roku’s newly refreshed boxes give viewers access to the M-Go online store, a service similar to Amazon’s Instant Video. The M-Go service is currently available online, in the Google Play app store and even some web-enabled televisions. Their partnership with Roku allows viewers to buy and rent movies in much the same way that they can with Apple TV, Roku’s main competitor. Existing Roku models will get this functionality through a software upgrade in October while the refreshed models will ship with this service natively installed.
“We want to give our viewers a one-click access to anything that’s available,” said Roku’s CEO Anthony Wood in an interview with Bloomberg. "Roku users spend more time streaming content than owners of other streaming boxes or video-game consoles."
In addition to M-Go, Roku also offers Amazon’s Instant Video, Blockbuster on Demand and Netflix. Any video bought through M-GO will be stored online and available to stream to a customer’s box, much in the same way Apple’s iCloud delivers previous purchases to Apple TV. Movies or television shows which have been started on a smartphone or tablet can be picked up later on the Roku box without having to start the entire thing from the beginning. Currently M-Go doesn’t offer an iOS app, meaning those iPad owners who want to use a new box will need to stream their content from the web.
Roku says it also plans to push out a service called Miracast later this year. This will allow users to stream content from their smartphone, tablet or PC directly to the Roku box. Apple’s AirPlay streaming technology also provides this functionality, albeit only through their own branded devices. This means that on both the Apple TV and Roku’s new boxes, users can stream nearly anything they find online directly to their television set.
The Roku LT, Roku’s introductory box, streams content at 720p HD video while the Roku 1 streams at a higher 1080p HD level. The Roku 2 becomes a better middle player with improved Wi-Fi connectivity and the aforementioned remote with a headphone jack. While these three boxes received a new design style and some software improvements, the Roku 3 remains the flagship device with all the previously mentioned features as well as Ethernet and USB ports for connectivity. The Roku 3 remote also contains sensors to turn it into a controller for motion-based games.
Last year Roku announced the 2 XS, a small thumb-drive sized device which delivers much of the functionality of other Roku boxes through the TV’s USB drive.