updated 07:05 am EDT, Tue May 20, 2008
Roku Netflix Player
Roku on Tuesday is seeking to up-end the traditional approach to media hubs with the Netflix Player. The small, five-inch-square hub sheds the local storage common to many media hubs and is designed solely to hook into Netflix' Watch Instantly feature: customers of nearly all of the video rental company's subscription plans can stream an unlimited number of movies from the Internet while still receiving DVD movie rentals in the mail, including for movies that aren't yet available in streaming form. The company's existing business gives it more than 10,000 movies online, or roughly ten times the size of Apple's iTunes rental catalog.
Setup for the Roku box is said to be simple with either Ethernet or Wi-Fi for the PC connection and a walk-through process that eliminates most of the guesswork. The interface itself is also simplified compared to the PC-based website, the company says. Viewers can attach the Netflix Player through HDMI, component, S-video, or RCA to a given TV; audio is supported through both RCA and optical out. Watch Instantly movies are currently available only in standard definition but should eventually be upgraded to HD, which will already be playable when the content goes live.
Cost is a key factor in the hub. The Roku player is available today and sells for $100, or less than half the price of competing devices from Apple and Vudu that depend on permanent storage. The Internet service works with any Netflix account worth $9 per month or more and doesn't affect the frequency of DVDs or the selection.
Netflix isn't limiting its offering to Roku and has already committed to integrating its movie streaming into a future LG Blu-ray player as well as three other devices from still unnamed companies.