Fans of Roku's streaming hardware will have another device to choose from soon, as it has set a price and shipping date for its new USB-shaped Streaming Stick. It's also garnered some more content for its streaming devices, with the addition of a new Vudu app for purchasing and renting Hollywood movies. And it's launching a new AirPlay-like feature to its mobile apps that will allow users to stream music and view photos they have on their mobile phones.
Earlier this year, Roku announced plans to release a Streaming Stick, which would bring all the same streaming capabilities that users have come to expect from its streaming boxes - but at a fraction of the size. Until now, though, the hardware startup witheld price and shipping information. Well no more: It's announcing today that the Roku Streaming Stick will go on sale next month, and will cost $99 - the same price as its current top-of-the-line Roku 2XS streaming box.
Roku's Streaming Stick works thanks to built-in WiFi and Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) technology. When plugged into compatible TVs and Blu-ray players, the USB-sized device will provide Roku-powered streaming video content, while drawing power from the TV and working with a customer's existing remote control. That will let viewers choose from more than 600 different channels that are available through its devices.
But it won't work with all TVs with a USB port - only new models compatible with the MHL technology. Roku announced in August that it had struck partnerships with a number of consumer electronics companies to support the Streaming Stick - companies like Element Electronics, GlobalVue International, Haier, Hitachi America, Insignia, Mitsubishi Electric, Onkyo, Integra, OPPO, and TMAX Digital. And today, it's announcing the first products to be compatible with the Streaming Stick, including four different Apex Digital models, two models from Best Buy's in-house Insignia brand, and seven models from Hitachi. More models will be added as time goes on.
Not only will those models support Roku's Streaming Stick for customers who want to buy their own, but some TVs will actually come bundled with the USB-shaped dongle. But whether purchased individually or bundled with a consumer electronics manufacturer's TV set, the Streaming Stick will come with Roku's enhanced remote, which will support games played through Roku devices. The Streaming Stick will initially go on sale on Roku.com and Amazon.com, with plans to be sold through more traditional brick-and-mortar locations in the coming months.
In addition to the release of its Roku Streaming Stick, the company has also partnered with Vudu to make its movies available for sale or rental on Roku devices. The Vudu app is now available on all Roku 2, Roku HD, and Roku LT streaming players, bringing more new Hollywood content to Roku users in the highest quality possible. Movies on Vudu are available in 1080p video quality, and support Dolby 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound.
And finally, Roku is introducing a cool new feature to its mobile apps that'll let users browse content that they have on their mobile devices and display them on their TVs. The Roku mobile app, which up until now was mainly used for remote control of Roku devices, will now support its new “Play On Roku” feature, letting users stream music and check out photos that are stored on their phones. Available for iOS and Android devices, Play On Roku adds a new way to share content with friends. Unfortunately, the feature doesn't support video, which is really what the Roku is all about, after all.
Roku has raised a total of $77 million in funding since being founded in 2008. That includes a recent $45 million Series E round led by News Corp. and BSkyB. With that funding, Roku is looking to expand more internationally and strike more partnerships with traditional distributors to make bundled TV content available through its streaming devices.