Roku Gets YouTube

Roku 3Perhaps unsurprisingly given Google’s now somewhat defunct plans for GoogleTV, YouTube has been one of the glaring omissions from the Roku platform. But not any longer. Roku has announced that a YouTube channel is now available on the Roku 3 in USA, Canada, UK and the Republic of Ireland. Older Rokus will be getting the channel next year, though the exact timing is unclear. For non-Roku owners, a channel is roughly equivalent to an app on other platforms.

The YouTube channel supports full 1080p HD and the press release suggests that subscriptions will carry over from other platforms so that your favourites can easily be seen on the Roku. The new channel also features “Send to TV”, which after pairing, lets you send a YouTube video from your smartphone or tablet for viewing on the Roku.

As a Roku 2 XS owner, I’m delighted but will have to wait a bit longer until I get the YouTube channel on my device (unless Santa has a surprise for me). Sadly, it will be one less reason to turn on my Nintendo Wii, especially with the HD support on the Roku.

Roku unveils new lineup

There are rumors floating around the web of an Apple TV refresh coming soon,and Google is due a TV update of its own, though it really has not been getting much attention. Ahead of the competition, Roku has elected to push out its new device lineup. The company had previously pushed out a brand new Roku 3, but now adds a Roku 1, Roku 2 and redesigned Roku LT.

roku-1-2-3

The new Roku 2 gets a 3-like remote with headphone jack and dual-band wireless for better internet connectivity. It retails for $79.99 and is available in the US, Canada and the UK.

The Roku 1 takes streaming a step further than the Roku LT with support for up to 1080p HD video quality, though there is no remote headphone jack. Availability markets are the same and retail price is $59.99.

The new version of the LT is the most affordable way to stream to virtually any TV with support for up to 720p HD video quality. This one is US only and will sell for $49.99.

In addition, the company announces that “we’re also introducing the M-GO movie and TV store, integrated directly on our home screen menu in the U.S. for easy and instant access to their great selection of movies and TV shows. To make it even simpler, the M-GO service features direct billing with via a Roku account so users can rent or buy through M-GO without any extra account setup”.

Which set top box do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.

Roku Surpasses Apple TV as Most-Used Streaming Set Top Box

Roku-3According to a new report from Parks Associates, Roku has taken the lead as the most popular streaming video device in the US. Further, Parks Associates also showed the number of U.S. broadband households with streaming media device has doubled since 2011.

The group put out a report called Connected TV: Trends and Innovation (report for purchase). In this report, they found that 37% of households with a streaming media device use Roku – as opposed to 24% that use Apple TV.

Parks Associates expect the number of connected TV devices to reach 330 million by 2017. With newer, easier to use devices like ChromeCast entering into the market – along with Apple’s rumored upcoming updated Apple TV on September 10th, this number could grow a lot faster. Adding in 4K or Ulta-TV devices with simple app support that get people introduced to streaming media could spark the market even more.

“Roku customers are passionate about streaming, and we are delighted that independent research shows that we are the most popular streaming platform measured by usage on a U.S. household basis,” said Anthony Wood, Founder and CEO, Roku.

Roku’s newest version – the Roku 3 – is a media streaming device and small game console with programs like Angry Birds, Galaga and Pac Man. You can use the remote with Bluetooth headphones for privacy viewing or pull out your iOS or Android device to control the set top box.

This brings a true fight for the TV’s HDMI port.

Samsung Acquires Boxee for $30 Million

boxee live tvSamsung just stepped up their game in the Set Top Box division by purchasing Israeli and NYC based Boxee streaming media. Boxee came out in 2007 as streaming TV media started to gain traction. Companies like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Vudu and more created apps which could be seen on the Boxee Entertainment System. Even Techpodcasts and Blubrry have channels on the Boxee system.

Boxee had a physical and software presence at the start, debuting on June 16, 2008 – you could download the Boxee software on PC or Mac. Last year, Boxee discontinued that service to focus on their $249 set top box.

Although Boxee has been a distant 4th on set top box marketshare, they did push the game forward in January when they debuted the Boxee Cloud DVR. This is an add-on that connects and turns the Boxee into a DVR.

The Marker first broke this story (Hebrew Website) stating that Samsung will continue to employee Boxee staff – about 40 employees. Boxee was on the market, which AllthingsD reported last month.

Samsung already has software built into smart TVs. Boxee will most likely replace the software and be included in future Samsung mobile devices.

Little Black Box brings XBMC to the set-top box market

XBMC has long been a darling of the HTPC crowd, bringing a free and open source alternative to Windows Media Center. Now a Dutch company wants to bring the platform to a set-top box. Known as “The Little Black Box“, the device has just become available for pre-order.

The box will contain 1GB of memory, 4GB of Flash storage (800MB for the system, 3.2GB for XBMC) and a Meson3 single core processor capable of running at 1Ghz but clocked at 800Mhz.

little black box

The box is available now for €99.99 and according to the site “The first batch will be in limited numbers. As that limited amount needs to be divided between the different distribution channel, availability will most likely become sparse very fast”. The company is accepting pre-orders world-wide.

Should Amazon build a set-top box?

amazon prime logoToday, rumors are circulating around the web regarding Amazon. It is nothing new — the online retail giant has long been subject to such babble. Rumors of an Amazon phone still appear on a regular basis. Thanks to the success of the Kindle Fire, everyone seems to expect a handset to be the logical follow-up.

Today’s rumor is different though — there is no phone involved, but instead a set-top box. While I have no real interest in moving from a Nexus phone to a Kindle one, a living room device intrigues me.

I am a recent convert to Google TV and I love the platform. But I am also a Prime subscriber. I replaced Netflix with the Amazon service sometime back because it is not only a bit cheaper, but offers more upside with, not only the streaming video, but also free two-day shipping and a Kindle lending library.

Prime for Google TV has been greatly improved recently, with the app now being native, as opposed to opening a browser window. Thus I imagine an Amazon set-top box to bring Prime to the forefront and make it the focus of the device. And that does not feel like a bad thing.

If the device were Kindle Fire-like, in that it ran a version of Android customized for the big screen, then this could compete with the likes of Roku and Google TV in today’s growing environment of cord-cutters. Xbox may remain the front runner, but the power and financial backing of Amazon could present a real competitor in the market, and that would be good for all consumers.

Roku unveils new box and interface

roku 3This morning Roku unveiled its brand new Roku 3 box. This is the first update to the Roku lineup in some time and there are quite a few changes with the Roku 3. The announcement calls it the “fastest, most powerful streaming player to-date”.

The new box, according to Roku’s Jim Funk, is five times faster than previous versions. The new Roku 3 also comes with an all new user interface, as Funk explains — “In the spirit of simplicity, the new Roku interface features a streamlined layout to provide quicker access and greater visibility – especially if you have many channels installed. The Roku Channel Store and Search are now fully integrated into the home screen, and both have been redesigned with our new on-screen experience”.

The new device also comes with a slightly revamped remote control. The remote has a headphone jack and includes a set of earbuds. When these are plugged in, the box automatically switches the audio to the headphones and mutes your speakers, allowing you to move around while listening to your music and also do so without disturbing other household members.

The box also comes with Angry Birds installed and the new remote control is motion sensitive to make for better gaming. There are also dual-band ethernet and USB ports as well.

The Roku 3 is available for $99 starting today. The new interface will begin rolling out to Roku boxes in April.

Netgear goes Google TV at CES 2013

A couple of years ago I had the good fortune to review a Netgear NeoTV set top box. I liked it. The interface was a bit stark and simple, but everything worked very well. However, these days we want more from our set top boxes and Netgear needed to move on into the new generation, which meant either doing a lot of R&D to come up with its own new UI or adopt a different platform.

The company chose the latter option, deciding to go Google TV. At this weeks Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas it unveiled the Netgear NeoTV Prime. Unlike many products seen at CES, this one not only WILL come to market, it HAS come to market. It is available for sale as I write this, retailing for $129.

NTV200S Front-Back

“Building on the features of NETGEAR NeoTV, NeoTV PRO and NeoTV MAX family of streaming players, the new NeoTV PRIME with Google TV extends your entertainment experience beyond just streaming video or even basic TV viewing. NeoTV PRIME opens up the world of apps from Google Play, delivering access to a growing library of entertainment including movies, TV shows, and music from streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Crackle, Flixter, Rhapsody, Pandora and many more. Google Play gives you movies and new releases in HD, music albums, and apps designed specifically for the TV.”

While it is priced just bit higher than some competitors like Vizio, Netgear has a history of producing solid hardware, so there is no reason to think this box will be anything less. Google TV is moving into the mainstream in a big way, both with set top boxes and built into smart TV’s.

Diamond Wireless Range Extender and Set-Top Box Preview

Diamond Wireless Range Extender WR300NI remember building a PC many years ago and at that time, Diamond Multimedia was one of *the* graphics card companies. I even seem to remember that it was VL-bus card, so that dates it to a pre-Pentium era. Anyway, it’s great to see that Diamond is still around when so many others have fallen by the wayside. Todd interviews Louis Kokenis from Diamond Multimedia on the latest products.

The Diamond Wireless Range Extender has three functions in one. First, it’s a wireless repeater that eliminates deadspots in wireless coverage. Second, it’s a wireless bridge that will connect a wired network device to the wireless network and third, it’s a standalone wireless access point, creating wireless hotspot from a single network point. With regard to the last mode, the WR300N’s small size means that it’s great for travelling and creating a wireless network in a hotel room. On-sale now for around $60.

Diamond will be introducing an Android-based TV set-top box that combines web browser, media player, ebook reader, game console, anything that can be downloaded from the Android Market. It won’t be tied to any particular media provider as it will either be able to download an app, e.g. Netflix, or else it will be able to browse to any website and play media directly. Sounds cool, especially if it runs ICS.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Steve Lee of NetCast Studio for the TechPodcast Network.

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UPnP Forum and How Your Gadgets Stream Music

UPnP Forum LogoIf you’ve ever wondered how your gadgets talk amongst themselves to successfully play music from your PC through a media streamer, you’ll be interested in this interview with Dr Alan Messer, President of the UPnP Forum.

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is the standard by which IP networked gadgets advertise their services and intercommunicate. Formed in 1999, nearly all the big vendors are signed up with over 1000 members, the notable exception being Apple who tend to do their own thing. Think Intel, Samsung, Nokia, Philips.

The most common example of UPnP (AV spec) is DLNA-certification which governs media management, discovery and control and this effectively determines how music is streamed from one device to another. Set-top boxes know how to use different router ports based on UPnP techniques. Almost any consumer device attached to the network in the home will have some element of UPnP built-in.

(No, Andy, it’s not the ISA PnP but thanks for the trip down memory lane.)

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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