New Roku XR Promises Upgrades
While there has been no official announcement, Roku is releasing a new box soon dubbed the Roku XR. Engadget (who we swiped the picture from - we think the dust lends it that air of authenticity) has revealed that it will have 802.11n wireless support and a USB port (probably for streaming movies/music/pictures). Over on Revision3, they let slip that not only will their content be available on the new box, but a glance at the video revealed possible support for Flickr, ROKU Channel Store, TWIT, and Pandora. This adds to the already available streaming services from Netflix, Amazon OnDemand, and MLB.com.
While not a huge announcement for non-fans of streaming, the fact is that Roku has been facing a lot of competition these days. When they first debuted a year and a half ago, they didn't really have much (if any) competition. Most users were streaming Netflix to their computers and only those handful with HTPCs had a really viable way of getting that content into their home theaters. Roku changed all that with their $100 box. But now we have Blu-ray players from Samsung, LG, and most recently Insignia, not to mention displays from LG and Sony, the Xbox 360 gaming system and the select DVRs from TiVo. On top of that, companies like PlayOn are bringing Netflix to the PS3 and Wii gaming platforms as well (albeit with clunkier interfaces). If you are on the market for a new device, you very well may have a Netflix option open to you.
With all the added competition, Roku has had to evolve and add services or face oblivion. First they added Amazon OnDemand (which is also becoming available on other devices) and most recently MLB.com. But with a $100 price tag and so much competition, consumers may be interested but they might not be convinced. With the addition of the faster 802.11n wireless support, this will make it easier than ever to swallow the $100 price tag of the Roku XR (provided they don't raise the price which they very well may). The additional channels are surely of interest to enthusiasts, but how many people really know what Revision3 is or Pandora or really feels the burning desire to use their Flickr photos as a screensaver (it sounds like the new family vacation slideshow torture to us).
The USB port may give users access to more content - specifically home and burned movies that they didn't have a way to stream into their living rooms - but it still requires a bit of work on the user's part. Instead, it seems like Roku would do well to work toward networking their box to stream content from connected computers. The fact is that Roku really captured the imagination and attention of consumers when it was released because of Netflix. Since then they've added features, but nothing has had the "wow" factor of that initial announcement. While the XR is definitely an improvement, we're not convinced that it has the punch that it needs to put the Roku XR out in front again.
I purchased RoKu with a $100.00 price tag which I felt was reasonable. (Even though it probably cost them less than $20.00 to manufacture) I have been waiting for the 5.1 upgrade streaming...the black box is suppose to be geared up and ready as soon as RoKu keeps there word.
After this announcement of the XR I do NOT feel confident that RoKu cares about the issue of 5.1 and has no intentions of keeping it's word to the consumer.