Roku Thinks Outside the Box with New Streaming Stick

Posted by · January 4, 2012 11:03 am

It seems the age of the set-top box may be on its way out. As televisions continue to slim down, it only seems appropriate that the boxes which can no longer rest soundly atop one’s TV set should follow suit. And that’s precisely what Roku has set out to do.

The company announced Wednesday that it has plans to release a cordless Streaming Stick, which will do away with those pesky set-top boxes once and for all. No bigger than a flash drive, the Roku Streaming Stick plugs directly into the HDMI port of a TV set. No cables, special remotes, or power cords necessary.

Like Roku’s set-top boxes, the Streaming Stick will include Wi-Fi capability, a processor, and storage capacity. It will also give users access to Roku’s 400-plus apps.

However, the Streaming Stick does not work on every TV with an HDMI port, as it is only compatible with sets whose HDMI ports are enabled for Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL), which allows the device to draw power and work with the TV’s remote. Typically, sets made within the last five years support MHL.

As Wi-Fi capability begins to become a standard component of new televisions, the debut of the Streaming Stick could not have been timed any better. In fact, a 2011 research report from DisplaySearch predicted that by 2015, 47 percent of all flat panel TVs shipped will have some form of internet connectivity. Speaking to that effect, Roku CEO Anthony Wood suggested that between Roku’s set-top boxes and the new Streaming Stick, his company will be best suited to oversee such a transition in the market.

According to Roku, the Streaming Stick will cost between $50 and $100—consistent with the current price range of its set-top boxes—and is set to become available in the latter half of 2012.

As such, one is then left to wonder if the introduction of the Streaming Stick will ultimately  slow the rate at which people purchase Wi-Fi capable television sets. If other companies, especially Apple and Google, release their own versions of the Streaming Stick in order to compete with Roku, there may be an incentive to hold onto that “older” TV a little longer than one otherwise would have. Even if these new devices are priced closer to $100, the cost of making a “dumb” TV into a smart one would be a comparatively minor price to pay.