Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Netflix & Roku Team Up for a $99 Set-Top Box To Enable Watching Movies on TV

We all know that IPTV is "not there yet", and the rising cable and satellite prices are killing subscribers. Due to lack of high-speed internet, viewing video over IP has suffered a setback, but more and more companies are trying to come up with similar devices that could help solve this problem. Netflix, the most low-priced online DVD rental service now teams up with Roku to introduce a device which will allow customers to watch movies easily on their televisions without involving mailing DVD's. Starting today, Netflix will begin marketing the $99 device that will allow subscribers to play thousands of movies and shows on their televisions instantly, for no charge beyond their normal subscription fee. With the device no bigger than a paperback, and so attractively priced, I think there's a chance it will lure more customers to the online DVD giant, who's been fighting to re-instate its supremacy with tough competition from TiVo, BlockBuster and more!

The size of a small paperback book, the set-top box is made by Roku, a California-based start-up known for its Internet music players. Netflix, based in nearby Los Gatos, owns a small stake in the company. Netflix already has a large subscriber base, and it has been offering online movies on their computers for about a year by streaming them over an Internet connection. But with this new set-top box, Netflix customers who have plans of $8.99 a month or higher will have access to an unlimited number of movies over the Internet. Just plug the settop to your PC and your TV, and you can view the live-streaming content directly on your TV rather than the small PC screen.

Roku’s box is simple to use. All the settings and sorting through the videos is still done on your PC, which makes it much simpler to handle. And unlike the Apple TV or TiVo devices, the Roku box does not have a hard drive. It plays video directly from the Internet by way of an Ethernet cable or home wireless network. Roku recommends that users have a connection speed of 1.5 megabits a second or faster, because slow connections could lead to buffer problems and video freezing. The device’s $99 price( vs $299 for Apple TV) will most likely attract new customers, though only those who have high-speed broadband connection. On the other hand, the Roku box will not provide music and photos, like AppleTV.

Live streaming of content is the next generation of entertainment, and Netflix is not the only one trying to find its place. Stalwarts like HP, Amazon and Apple are already planning to offer similar or imprved services in the near future. So finally, who will survive and who will fade away all depends on the pricing and the quality and quantity of content that they offer.

With cable and satellite companies trying to expand their video-on-demand services and players like Netflix & Roku offering these kind of services, no matter who wins, its going to be much more affordable for the end-user and we can look forward to many more viewing choices over the next couple of years!!


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