UPDATE, April 5, 2016:Roku Unleashes Faster Streaming Stick
Roku has unveiled a new HDMI-connected Streaming Stick that sells for $49.99 and gives the company a new, entry-level weapon to wield against the $35 Google Chromecast. It will start shipping and launch at retail in April.
Unlike the original $99 Roku Streaming Stick, the new HDMI Version is not limited to newer-generation, “Roku-Ready” TVs that use ports that support Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) technology.
Roku chief marketing officer Matthew Anderson said Roku will continue to offer the MHL-compatible stick, but expects to limit its distribution to retail bundles that tie the device to compatible TVs and specialized remote controls that can work with the streaming device and the set itself. Roku has not disclosed sales figures for its original streaming stick, but last year the company certified 60 different products from 14 CE partners, estimating that they’ve shipped more than 2.5 million Roku Ready devices. Roku said 20 companies are presently in the Roku Ready program.
Like Roku’s family of other streaming boxes, the new Streaming Stick will support Roku’s 1,200-plus apps/channels, including authenticated TV Everywhere apps such as HBO GO, Watch Disney, WatchESPN, and TWC TV from Time Warner Cable.
The new HDMI Version can deliver 1080p video (with a solid broadband connection) and uses a mini USB port that can draw power from a USB port on the TV or directly from a wall outlet. The 802.11n Wi-Fi-enabled device will also ship with a remote control and the ability to use mobile apps that can also control the Roku Streaming Stick. Anderson said the new product is also made to support DIAL (Discover and Launch), a feature currently supported by the Roku 3 that lets users fling video from YouTube and Netflix from a mobile device to the TV, tying in a feature that’s central to the rival Chromecast platform. The new adapter will also let users view locally-stored personal photos on the TV.
Anderson said Web tab casting is one of the features on the roadmap.
Anderson downplayed the obvious competitive comparison between the Google Chromecast and Roku’s latest entry. “It’s no longer a one-dimensional marketplace,” he said of the market for HDMI streaming sticks.
Speaking at the Multichannel News/Broadcasting & Cable Next TV Summit last fall, Roku CEO Anthony Wood said he considered Google as becoming Roku’s “biggest competitor” in the months and years ahead as both companies try to push rival platforms.
The new HDMI streaming stick is just one way Roku is trying to expand the battle lines with rivals such as Google and Apple. At the International CES event in January, Roku announced that Hisense and TCL are the first television manufactures that will launch models that integrate the Roku platform. The initial line of Roku TV models are expected out this fall.
Roku, the subject of recent IPO rumors, has shipped about 8 million devices in the U.S., but has yet to release any international shipment figures.