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Roku gets sucked into TVs

Jan 9, 2014  |  Rick Lehrbaum
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It was inevitable: Roku, which shipped its 5 millionth streaming media player last year, is now having its Linux-based STB technology embedded directly within Smart TVs.

Since the introduction of the “Netflix Player by Roku” in May 2008, Roku has successfully clawed its way to the top of the streaming media player heap. Last April, CEO Anthony Wood proudly announced the company had shipped its 5 millionth Roku Player in North America.

Now, here comes Roku TV.

“Today we announced Roku TV. That’s right, actual TVs,” announced Roku CEO Anthony Wood this week in a post on Roku’s blog. The achievement culminates a six-year evolution, from Roku’s initial Netflix-only set-top box (STB), to the company’s current 1,200-strong channel store, which represents “more options than all the other Smart TVs in the market,” claims Wood. The company’s success can most likely be attributed to its having made an API for channel developers readily available, along with a consistent focus on providing a low-cost, easy-to-use, reliable product.

The first Roku TVs will be made by TCL and Hisense, which together accounted for shipments of 21 million TVs in 2012 — about nine percent share of the global TV market — according to Roku. Roku TV models from TCL and Hisense (and perhaps others), in sizes from 32 to 55 inches, are expected to ship this fall.

 
Familiar Roku UI

Wood says Roku TV’s user interface will be familiar to users of Roku’s current STB and HDMI-stick products. Mainly, the Roku TV UI (shown below) adds functions for access to the TV’s OTA TV receiver and A/V inputs.




Roku TV UI: TCL (upper); Hisense (lower)
(click images to enlarge)


(click to enlarge)

“We’ve applied the same principles that have made Roku the most popular streaming players in America to TVs,” writes Wood. “Roku TV removes all of the complicated layers and menus, and unnecessary features and settings that plague smart TVs today, and instead provides a Roku home screen that brings together all content sources.”

Roku TV’s remote control has 20 buttons, which Roku says is half that of “traditional” TV remotes. The TVs can also controlled with Roku’s free Android and iOS tablet and smartphone apps. Roku TV is also said to support various casting standards, “including DIAL” (DIscovery And Launch), enabling content to be streamed from mobile devices to the TV.

 
Roku’s history in a nutshell

A brief pictorial history of Roku’s progress, from 2008 “Netflix Box” to 2014 Roku TV, appears below.

(click thumbnails for larger images)


Original Roku (2008)

Roku 2 (2011)

Roku Streaming Stick (2012)

Updated Roku series (2013)

Hisense Roku TV (2014

TCL Roku TV (2014)

(click thumbnails for larger images)


 
Further information

Roku TVs from TCL and Hisense are expected to be available this fall in the U.S. and Canada, in sizes ranging from 32 to 55 inches. Roku plans to license the new Roku TV “reference design platform and software stack” to additional manufacturers on an ongoing basis. Further details will eventually appear on Roku’s website.

“Of course we’re still making our popular Roku players alongside Roku TVs. Now consumers will have a choice for how to get Roku on their TVs,” says Wood.
 

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