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Roku intros $100 Netflix rival to Apple TV

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.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. njfuzzy

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2001

    +3

    Crazy idea

    Here's a crazy idea... Maybe one of those other devices is (or should be) the Apple TV.

    Apple isn't wedded to providing the content-- they seem to pretty much break even. They want there to be content for their hardware. Having Netflix movies on Apple TV would give them that.

  1. dynsight

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2005

    +2

    good idea

    Until Netflix can play on Apple, (September 2008) this is a good option. I have a mac mini hooked up to TV for media center. I've actually thought of running fusion on this to take advantage of Netflix Watch Now, but the quality of the stream is not particularly good on the guest machine.

  1. smitch

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2005

    +1

    But I'm the kind...

    of user who buys DVD movies, rips them onto iTunes and streams them to my Apple TV. I like to watch and rewatch moves and I don't believe in pirating. My DVD's are stored next to the Apple TV. I rent some movies on AppleTV, but mostly as a way to decide if a DVD is worthy of my library. Ripped DVD's are a little better quality than that purchased or rented on iTunes and I as I plan to add Apple TV's to other rooms in my home, will freely stream to them without having the hardware authorized. Netflix is definitely not what I would want therefore.

  1. eddd

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Dec 2001

    +1

    questions

    the lack of a hard drive cuts complexity and cost, but you have to wonder whether a direct feed over a wireless network will work well enough. And what about skipping chapters or rewinding? Big pauses as the device sends out a new request? It has the potential to be quite cumbersome.

    Personally, I'm not a subscription fan, whether it's Netflix or Comcast's On Demand. The monthly fees add up (roughly $180 annual for either - you need digital cable with Comcast). We tried Netflix once, and found we were too busy to watch even two movies per month consistently (the selection was great, though). Plus there was an odd pressure to watch movies, since not doing so meant wasting money.

    I realize I'm probably not typical, but I now buy or rent Bluray disks when I want to see a film. That makes the most of the experience when we do watch a movie.

    Any any event, if this thing works it will be good pressure on Apple.

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