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Television Media Hardware

$100 Roku Netflix Player Targets Apple TV 165

Posted by kdawson
from the all-you-can-watch-from-a-very-limited-menu dept.
Binge notes CNet coverage of the Netflix Player by Roku, which it calls "bare-bones." Less than 10% of Netfilx's catalog is available for the Instant Viewing option. Three more Netflix players are said to be due for release by the end of the year. The Roku is "...the first product that allows subscribers to have movies and TV shows from the service's Instant Viewing feature (aka 'Watch Now') to be streamed directly to their TV screen... With the release of the Netflix Player, subscribers need only have a wired or wireless broadband connection to access the entire Instant Viewing catalog through their TV."
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$100 Roku Netflix Player Targets Apple TV

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  • by snarfies (115214)
    Not for nothing, but how is this different from the In Demand feature that's been part of Comcast for several years now? Why would I need/want this?
    • Re:er? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bryansix (761547) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:57PM (#23481164) Homepage
      Because if Netflix offers more movies maybe you can ditch that evil company called Comcast and save some dough in the progress. The customer service ratings just came out and Comcast and Charter tied for last place by having the most dis-satisfied customers.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        "Because if Netflix offers more movies maybe you can ditch that evil company called Comcast and save some dough in the progress"

        But, regular Netflix apparently has MANY more times the titles on dvd than on this unit they're selling.

        Besides, if you get this unit, how will you ever "back up" a copy of the movie like you can with the physical dvd.

        :-)

        • Re:er? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by omnipresentbob (858376) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:34PM (#23481912) Homepage
          I'm hoping it's just licensing issues that's causing them to not be able to offer the "many more titles".

          And backing up a copy of the movie would be irrelevant with this service, as you could watch it at any time, as many times as you want.

          That is, if they continue to stay in business (and they likely will).
          • by wvmarle (1070040)

            That is, if they continue to stay in business (and they likely will).
            I'm sure many many people thought the same of megacorps like Elron.
            Don't count on any company to "continue to stay in business", especially if this implies "forever".
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Reece400 (584378)
          Well, starting at $8.95 per month, I think you could still afford to go & purchase a few DVD's a month. Alternatly hook up your VCR (Or DVD recorder) and record it just like you would from Cable TV :D
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tepples (727027)

        Because if Netflix offers more movies maybe you can ditch that evil company called Comcast and save some dough in the progress.
        Not if the phone company doesn't offer DSL where you live.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lumpy (12016)
        Problem is netflix's streaming offering is really low quality video. My AppleTV has a HD rental function that looks as good as my BluRay player does.

        This is NOT competition for the Apple Tv. it's an offering for the poor that want a halfed assed option for cheaper.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by daoine_sidhe (619572)
          it's an offering for the poor that want a halfed assed option for cheaper.

          Wow, I see the 'conceited fuck' knob goes up to 11.

          Try rephrasing that with a little less vitriol next time. Sometimes we poor unwashed masses like a little entertainment as well. I suppose my used Corolla is just a half-assed option for the poor who can't afford a Mercedes.

          Am I really the only person who is insulted by this? Or am I just biased by being 'poor?'

          • by hedwards (940851)
            I don't think you're the only one. I mean really, even those who do have more money would probably be better off with the netflix option. You pay the $100 for the box and the subscription and you get both movies through the mail and ones directly to the TV.

            The quality settings are based upon the connection speed. And if you just want to watch a movie, the quality is just fine. Not Film buff fine, but it's definitely watchable and less expensive.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Hmm... I've had the opposite experience; Netflix's streaming video has been nearly DVD quality most of the time for me. My broadband is usually ~4.5Mbps down.

          With no monthly limit plans starting @ $8.99 a month, that ain't a bad deal IMO. Watch as many DVDs as you can mail back in a month, plus unlimited titles from their streaming catalog.

          I wish their streaming catalog was a bit more robust, but I expect that will only improve over time.
        • by skiflyer (716312)
          Or, it's an option for those of us who already have BluRay, already have Netflix and don't mind throwing a $100 one time fee to be able to watch the limited offering whenever we want to.

          I placed an order already. I wouldn't buy it for $5 a month, but for a one time fee this is a gadget I'm more than willing to tinker with and if I don't like it so be it.

          Plus, if you search around a bit you'll see that the box itself is HD capable and they'll upgrade it if the netflix offering ever gets upgraded. I don't wan
          • by Sancho (17056) *

            Plus, if you search around a bit you'll see that the box itself is HD capable and they'll upgrade it if the netflix offering ever gets upgraded.
            The press release said that it has 64M RAM in the device. That's not enough to buffer much HD content.
        • by prockcore (543967)
          netflix's video quality depends entirely on your connection speed. Obviously your connection is crap.
    • Re:er? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by initdeep (1073290) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:02PM (#23481286)
      How about because if you already pay for netflix, this service is entirely free.

      meaning i can watch any of the "Watch it Now" movies (and TV shows) they offer simply by using this device.

      And the sheer number (and its been increasing rather dramatically lately) of titles available simply dwarfs the offerings from any on demand service available.

      Can you watch Dexter Season 1? Tripping the Rift Season 1, Heroes Season 1 and 2, A Fairly large number of Anime titles, a fairly large number of older movies from the 80's and 90's?

      you may not want to, but some people do, and now they can without t he need to have a cable or even a satellite connection in their home.

      I actually use my Vista MC with a netflix plug-in to do this all the time.
      • by tepples (727027)

        you may not want to [watch back-catalog video on demand], but some people do, and now they can without t he need to have a cable or even a satellite connection in their home.
        How are customers going to get the broadband "without t he need to have a cable or even a satellite connection"?
    • Re:er? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kannibal_klown (531544) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:05PM (#23481346)

      Not for nothing, but how is this different from the In Demand feature that's been part of Comcast for several years now? Why would I need/want this?
      Selection and cost.

      Though the Netflix OnDemand selection is weak and old, it's a lot larger than the free Comcast OnDemand selection. While Comcast's selection grows if you have premium channels it's still smaller than Netflix's selection.

      If you already have Netflix, then once you have the device there's no extra cost. While most of Comcast's OnDemand library is free, not everything is and not everyone has Starz/HBO/Showtime. Meanwhile some of those shows are (or at least were) offered via NetFlix OnDemand.

      I'ts not a must-by, but if you're a Netflix customer with a high speed connection then it's a tempting self-birthday gift.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PhreakOfTime (588141)

      How about... because you dont want to give a single dollar more to Comcast for their abysmal handling of their own internet traffic, and traffic shaping of selective protocols?

      Anything that drives comcast out of business and destroys their line of thinking that they are 'so big that nobody will challenge us' is a positive for the rest of the internet community.

      Screw You Comcast!

      • by Fatal67 (244371)
        Does netflix pay for the usage over your 250gb a month cap when Comcast cuts to that? If not, you might want to add 1.50 per gig to the monthly cost.
        • Is netflix now responsible for Comcast's business practices?

          I didnt know Netflix had a minority stake owned by Comcast.

          If such a scenario is something you are worried about, and you are STILL using comcast, then it is up to YOU to find the time to find yourself at your local municipalities monthly public hearings about their cable provider status.

          However, if the most a comcast subscriber is going to do is just complain about it, yet still pay the monthly bill, well then I guess they have you right where

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wvmarle (1070040)

        How about... because you dont want to give a single dollar more to Comcast for their abysmal handling of their own internet traffic, and traffic shaping of selective protocols?

        How long until they start traffic-shaping the Netflix streams? Sounds to me like large amounts of data.
    • Re:er? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cwgmpls (853876) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:10PM (#23481446) Journal
      Let's see... Comcast is $85 per month (Minneapolis area). Netflix is $5 per month. That is why you might need/want this.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by mattack2 (1165421)
        Only $8.99 and higher plans get the streaming service. Your intended point is valid though.
    • Re:er? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:15PM (#23481550)
      This is about $9/month after an initial $100 investment. That's less than $18/month if you only use it for a year, and gives you access to 10,000 programs (including TV shows).

      If Comcast even offers $18/month service, it's because your municipality wrote it into the contract and it's going to be local channels in analog only.
    • Depends on your viewing habits. Personally, we had Netflix and Comcast. We ditched the $70+/month Comcast TV and kept the $15/month Netflix. The 3 DVD's at a time and the watch instantly easily fill up our month. now, fair enough I don't get to watch everything I want instantly, but that's not important to me and quick math tells me that I'm saving >$840 over the year. I'm streaming Netflix into my 42" TV with coaxial audio and it looks as good as a standard DVD, but then I get damn good download speed a
    • The selection's better. Comcast just gives you a sliding window into the library, Netflix gives you all their Instant content on any given day.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:57PM (#23481168) Journal
    I hit the FCC to see if I could get internal shots of this widget, no luck, alas. Interestingly, though, their earlier Soundbridge product appears to be based on a BlackFin DSP core(read, supported by ucLinux). This thing could kick ass as a homebrew STB if the internals are reasonably friendly. That goes double if somebody can get a mythTV frontend running on one.

    If anybody knows anthing about the internals, do tell.
    • by yincrash (854885)
      Agreed. This is a very cheap box that can stream HD media over a network. If anyone can figure out how to hack it, a lot of doors could be opened.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gEvil (beta) (945888)
        This is a very cheap box that can stream HD media over a network.

        Where did you get that from? The article goes out of its way to mention that it won't deliver HD-quality content.
        • by yincrash (854885) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:08PM (#23481400)

          The Future Netflix is planning HD streaming, and this box will support it. When Netflix gets HD streaming content, they'll update the box by firmware to support HD resolutions at higher bitrates of 4-6mbps, including 5.1 surround (everything is stereo now). The menus will also be upgraded to HD res, too. In the future, the Roku-branded box will be upgraded to accept non-Netflix content, too. (And btw, the update on the Mac client situation is that they're just trying to sort out the DRM issues, or lack of a suitable system they can stream to Macs on.)
          http://gizmodo.com/389698/first-netflix-streaming-box-review-100-and-unlimited-downloads [gizmodo.com]
        • by MBCook (132727)

          Really? The article I read (along with others not linked above) say that it can stream HD over a network, there just isn't any HD content in the Netflix Instant catalog at the moment.

          I'm with the GP. Besides my interest of this little box for it's intended use, I find it to be a cheap and probably silent little HD capable Linux box. This is if someone figures out how to put Linux on it (some think it is Linux based), and it can be done by end users/hackers (i.e. no crypto-signed kernel images and such).

        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:10PM (#23481448) Journal
          The service won't deliver HD; because bandwidth costs Netflix money(and nothing short of a tape of the entire comcast board of directors sodomizing orphans will get an American household broadband fast enough to stream HD over, in any case), the hardware itself is said to be HD capable, with just software updates, at least at at modest bitrates, and it has HDMI and so forth.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by geekoid (135745)
            I wonder if they could bittorrent using other peoples downloads as seeds?
            • I wonder if they could bittorrent using other peoples downloads as seeds?

              Nope, that's something they definitely can't do with this box. One, there's no HD, only a RAM buffer. Two, torrents are terrible for sequential streaming of data.
          • by bonehead (6382)
            And the bad part about that is that even if you do scrounge up that tape of the Comcast board, it won't even do me any good, since I'm stuck in a Mediacom area.
          • Isn't ABC.com already streaming HD? Or is that fake HD?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Bill Dimm (463823)
          According to a different review [gizmodo.com]:
          "Netflix is planning HD streaming, and this box will support it. When Netflix gets HD streaming content, they'll update the box by firmware to support HD resolutions at higher bitrates of 4-6mbps, including 5.1 surround"
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      installing MythTV on this would be a step backwards. Install XBMC on this and that would rock.

      myth is a awesome PVR but it royally sucks as a media center.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        I wholeheartedly agree, but I've been tracking the development xbmc (building on ubuntu gutsy, I'm in the middle of adding packages to my fresh hardy install now... via a ~26.4kbps modem connection, whee!) but at least on gutsy, the software is basically unusable for most purposes. It has problems with many types of file-based video media, and the dvd player (esp. menu support) is crash city. It works okay as an mp3 player, though. I'm really looking forward to xbmc-linux being anywhere close to stable, but
    • by PRMan (959735) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @06:17PM (#23483596)

      May I point you to the Roku Photobridge [rokulabs.com] forums, where a bunch of abandoned users hang out.

      Oh, the Roku Photobridge was a great machine back in 2005. It's main purpose was to view pictures from you digital camera at HD resolutions and to play MP3's, but it didn't take long for people to realize that everything you needed to upconvert DVD-quality movies (stored on your network) to HD was there. Or even to play HD video pulled from your TiVo or MythTV. Almost.

      They promised a better video player... But never delivered...

      They promised a faster connection for HD... But never delivered...

      They promised to open up the firmware... But never delivered...

      They promised an update to make subtitles and DTS possible (they weren't even going to do it, just stop the accidental prevention of these things by the third-party developers)... They never delivered.

      People waited years for these features, which were always "just around the corner".

      Basically, once the SoundBridge took off, they just completely abandoned their small but faithful user group. The group wasn't even asking for much, just the source code so they could figure out how to make their own updates and how to interface with the hardware themselves.

      But, I got tired of the lack of DTS support, the sound stuttering which got progressively worse, etc. My DirecTV DVR and PS3 now cover all the features that it did and do it much better.

      I would be very hesitant to buy things from Roku with the track record they have established. If the "Netflix player" doesn't take off, you might be the next owner of an abandoned product.

    • Did a bit more poking about. On the Roku Forums, one of their people says something about the internals: http://forums.rokulabs.com/viewtopic.php?t=16685 [rokulabs.com] Doesn't look wildly friendly offhand. Definitely supports linux, and 256megs of RAM, apparently; but looks like the SoC was designed with lockdown in mind. Still definitely worth a look; but I think that there might be a bit too much input from the boys from big content.
  • Cheap enough to try (Score:4, Interesting)

    by herring0 (1286926) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:58PM (#23481204)
    I certainly hope for more out of these type devices in the future, but I can certainly say I'm interested. If nothing else it's a cheap piece of hardware that (hopefully!) just works and adds a benefit to my subscription. Plus without the FIOS TV options and lackluster cable options I've loved Netflix or e-hits ever since I started using those types of services. I'm also glad to see that some people at least are trying to move forward with ideas like this.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "What do you think: is the Netflix Player a game-changing product that bests Apple TV?"

    Even foaming at the mouth Apple fanboys are embarrassed by Apple TV and its failure in the marketplace due to the usual reasons - overpriced, under-featured.

  • Interesting Box (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:02PM (#23481282) Homepage

    An interesting little box. I wouldn't mind having one. I have Netflix (which I love) but don't use their streaming service since I'm a Mac guy. I like that they have it all ready for HD.

    If I had no decent boxes, I'd buy one.

    But I have a TiVo Series 3. It's a fantastic box. It can handle this kind of stuff. I really don't want another box at this point that can do this kind of stuff, that I have to switch between. I've already got my TiVo, my DVD player, and my 360. I don't need another single use box.

    Netflix said they were in chats with other people to make more boxes. Having this integrated into a DVD/Blu-Ray player would be nice. I think they were thinking of letting the PS3 or 360 do this.

    I'll gladly use it should it become available for my TiVo.

    But again kudos to them for getting it out so fast after the announcement, charging so little ($100? No monthly fee above my current 3 disc subscription level?), and having it all ready for when they have an HD catalog.

    • I have Netflix (which I love) but don't use their streaming service since I'm a Mac guy. I like that they have it all ready for HD.

      Where are you getting this from? Someone else up above mentioned the same thing, and all I can find is the article saying that it won't give you HD--that if you want HD you should look elsewhere. Am I missing something here?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MBCook (132727)

        The articles (and the FAQ on the box) say that it is capable and ready of showing HD content, but right now nothing in Netflix's instant viewing catalog is in HD. That's why I put "all ready for HD". The CNet article doesn't seem to mention that.

        From Wired's article:

        "Higher quality streams are available, and over time, HD streams will show up, which the box can handle."

        • Ahhh. Thanks. Silly of me not to read articles that aren't linked from the story submission. : p
        • But is that "Ready for HD" as in
          "Near future as we begin to add HD titles" ?

          or as in

          "If someday you get an ISP that offers more bandwidth than all of the ones currently available to you"

          On the other hand, a TiVo or XBox360 has the buffering capacity to present HD without ultrahigh bandwidth. I don't really mind waiting a few hours, or even until the next day--that's still a lot faster than waiting for the disk to come in the mail.
    • Annoyed with NetFlix (Score:2, Interesting)

      by goombah99 (560566)
      I'm a mac guy too and I am somewhat ticked off by this announcment. For a year or so now they have had a web page saying they are "working hard" to get netflix ondemand service for their mac customers but Apple is preventing them.

      How could apple possibly be standing in there way. If they can implement it on a PC or if Amazon NBC and SCIfi channel can get Flash streaming to work why do they have to ask for Apple's permission?

      Bah. It was this box they were developing. They had zero interest in making onDema
      • by Joe Tie. (567096)
        What bugged me is when I wound up testing virtual machines to see which could play best on the linux and osx box in our house. Apparently there's a limit to how many can use the service, and there's no way to revoke it. So not only do they force you to use windows, you get punished for even trying to find a workaround on other platforms.
      • by Binkleyz (175773)
        I'm not sure that this is to your point, but that page up on the Netflix website seems to be saying that the hurdle isn't the technology, it is that the various content owners are wedded to the DRM that is bundled with Windows, and have not given their (necessary) permission for anything BUT the the DRM associated with Windows. Without that permission, Netflix cannot legally stream that content.

        Here is the full text of that page:

        "Our apologies -- instant watching is currently not supported for Macintosh.

        Ou
    • You're not missing much on the streaming services. Almost all of their streamed library is either public domain or indie flicks. You'll find almost no mainstream studio pictures streamed from Netflix.
  • I already purchased and have been using the D-Link DGP1200 [walmart.com] bought at walmart for $180 to do the exact same thing.

    Unlike the Roku, you can watch any content on your PC, and even get to the Netflix site to choose the movie you want to watch (if you have a bookmark to get their) It is even technically HD quality (though the stream from netflix isn't.)
    • by MBCook (132727)

      I think you're looking at this box as more that it is. This is not a media center extender. I don't think of it as competing with Windows MCE, a 360 connecting to something, or your little box.

      To me this is nothing more than a DVD player that has an infinite supply of things from my Netflix queue in it (with slightly limited selection). For that purpose, it's a great little box at a fantastic price. I'm surprised they are only charging $100 for it and not $200 or so.

  • by ViX44 (893232) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:04PM (#23481326)
    With a pile built of a DVD/VCR Combo, stereo system, vinyl player, over-the-air digital converter, and some old Nintendoes, I don't need another box to wire up.

    I wouldn't mind hearing about Netflix escaping the Windows/IE trap. I would approve of streaming Netflix to my laptop that's running Ubuntu. Well, if the wireless card would work on it...
  • Like game consoles and DVRs and such. Of course, this is hindered by these companies having their own video download service. I'd imagine a Wii Netflix channel could work (none of the videos are in HD, right?), but apparently they use WMV. That would work well with 360, but Microsoft has their own video download service.
  • So when do we get a MythTV plugin? That would be the best solution so we don't need extra hardware around the living room.
  • Pretty good deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan,jared&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:11PM (#23481472)
    What do you think: is the Netflix Player a game-changing product that bests Apple TV? Or is the selection too lackluster to be worth even its $100 asking price?

    Selection will improve. It may a commercial mistake to release without the full library behind it, but I think it will still find some measure of success. Either way, this is a win for customers. Something this cheap is really going to threaten the other players. For starters, the streaming quality is a non-issue for most, which makes the price difference look all the more appealing. The scant library is a downer, but again that will be fixed. The only problem I see in the system is ISP's mucking things up. They scream about taking down net neutrality to augment this sort of thing, but in the end people actually using the bandwidth they payed for will make them much angrier.

    I like that netflix is jumping into the mix. Still, I would prefer the Internet not to be hijacked by video on demand when we have such an expensive cable system already available. However, I've come to the realization that video on demand is already moving forward on the net, and the best I can hope for is video on demand platform be the most customer friendly one as possible.
  • ...but if this thing is as slick as the roku soundbridge, methinks I'll finally get a netflix subscription. I love my soundbridge (well, not this weekend while rokuradio was having mysql backend issues...is that fixed yet?).
  • by StreetStealth (980200) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:12PM (#23481500) Journal
    I just looked over the info at Roku's site and I think I'm finally prepared to say... This is the one we've all been waiting for.

    While Roku's refreshingly good industrial and UI design looks like it should help, though, here's the real reason this is going to be huge:

    I don't think I can overstate the importance of having a single monthly payment to rent a good number of movies and TV shows versus the failed model of "buying" movies that will never leave your set-top box or even the yet unproven model of renting them at $4 a pop with the remote. This is why Netflix beat Blockbuster and it's why they'll beat Apple TV.

    This is the thing that will kill the DVD and cable at the same time.

    What it comes down to, for now, is Netflix's significantly preferable all-you-can-eat model versus Apple TV's significantly greater selection. But the Netflix selection is only getting bigger.
    • Apple already has significantly more than 10000 movies available? I thought they actually had a smaller, though probably more recent, selection than Netflix.

      I think that asking whether this will beat AppleTV is ignoring that AppleTV hasn't exactly been the newest iPod. AppleTV is a very tiny player in the video over IP market. The real competition is bit torrent, which has already defeated AppleTV. Will people pay for something they can get (not streaming, but in higher quality) for free? I will.
    • by tepples (727027)

      or even the yet unproven model of renting them at $4 a pop with the remote.
      Unproven? I thought that was called "cable TV pay-per-view", and it's been around for at least a decade and a half.
    • This is the thing that will kill the DVD and cable at the same time.

      The subscription model is great, but the only way this is going to kill cable and DVD is with the full support of the movie studios, who make an enormous portion of their revenue from... cable and DVD. And I'm pretty sure the studios have teams of accountants to figure out that a $9/mo Netflix subscription is less than a $70/mo cable TV subscription. Only 2 of the top 100 movies on Netflix are available to stream, and if the studios get irritated, allof a sudden this is competing with Joost and Jaman ins

    • by Roxton (73137)
      This is a terrific platform. Aside from your excellent point about it being a good consumer model, I'm also excited because NetFlix has been a great supporter of independent content producers. Their Red Envelope Entertainment publishing has been a huge boon for foreign films, documentaries, and political works.

      I'm hoping that the Roku box becomes successful, because I anticipate that they'll be able to leverage a successful set-top environment to do for episodic content what they've done for movies. The
  • Oblig.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thatseattleguy (897282) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:17PM (#23481580) Homepage
    1) Roll out an on-demand video service so crippled by DRM restrictions that it can work in only ONE browser (IE), and on only ONE platform (Windows) - and those only if you have the tip-top absolute latest releases and updates.

    2) Find that half your customers can't (or won't) use your service as a result.

    3) License others to make special-purpose hardware just to get around the restrictions in (1) and take a big cut of that.

    4) Profit!!!!! /tsg/
  • I thought Roku got killed by the Fire Lord over 100 years ago!
  • This is worthless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dfn_deux (535506) <datsun510&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:29PM (#23481800) Homepage
    No onboard disk cache, an absolute max bitrate of 2Mb/s, and max resolution of 480p make this box basically the worst streaming solution for early adopters. Netflix needs to resolve some more basic issue with their service before they try and make a serious run at hardware streaming end points. For instance their service autodetects your bandwidth and selects what it feels is an appropriate bitrate for your viewing w/o giving you any option cache a larger portion of the video in advance and allow a higher overall bitrate/quality. Who is the target audience for this? People with a hankering for poor quality SD movies from a large back catalog whom also own a set with HDMI inputs and a highspeed data connection? Seriously guys, try a bit harder on the RD side next time.
    • by daoine_sidhe (619572) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @05:52PM (#23483208)
      Me. I'm the target audience. I don't have a HD capable television, and have no particular desire to own one until the prices come down considerably. I do have a high-speed internet connection. I have loved the fact that I can hook the s-video and stereo output from my laptop to my entertainment center and watch movies, documentaries, television shows, etc. Before you decide that the only audience worth having owns a 40"+ 1080P television, take a look around. Not everyone can drop that much cash on entertainment, and not everyone thinks it is a good idea to buy entertainment on credit. For $100, with no extra monthly fees, this quite simply enhances the service I already have (and am quite happy with). I think the R&D was right on, and they picked the perfect mix of capabilities for an initial model. Look for these to sell in huge quantities.
      • by dfn_deux (535506)
        You made my point for me, you already have a laptop that does what this offers... What is there to gain from spending the 100 dollars?
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by daoine_sidhe (619572)
          The same things I gain from having a DVD player. I won't have to hook my laptop (which I sometimes leave at work) up to my television. I won't have to run Windows on my laptop (which is currently installed strictly for Netflix). I won't have to wait for a compile to finish. I won't have to plug in AC adapter, S-Video, and audio cable every time I want to use the service. This is worth $100 to me. It would not be worth $200 or more for a higher end version, with more features that I can't benefit from
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      No onboard disk cache, an absolute max bitrate of 2Mb/s,

      From the state of US Internet services (at least the impression I get on /.), a 2 Mb/s max bitrate is something most people will not even manage to reach most of the time, if at all. Maybe you are so lucky to have such a big pipe, and the allowance of your ISP to actually use that much bandwidth - I'm quite sure most people don't. So it doesn't make sense to accept 10 Mb/s connections, try to pump that much data, only to find out it doesn't work and end up with buffer underruns on the device. Not good for

  • I have not tried this, or Apple TV, or anything similar - but I'm not sure I'd enjoy the experience anyway.

    I have enough trouble trying to stream a crappy video off of Youtube via a cable connection. I have to worry about the bandwidth being used by the rest of the family, I have to worry about the amount of traffic at the other end, i have to worry about not getting screwed by the cable company who is trying to cram my whole neighbourhood into a tightly controlled unit.

    It just doesn't seem like I'd be abl
  • by llZENll (545605) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:33PM (#23481876)
    Awesome price.
    Awesome interface.
    Awesome hardware.
    Sucky video quality.
    Sucky audio.

    "Quality is not great, even at 2.2 Mbps"
    "everything is stereo now"

    I'll plunk down my $100 and switch to Netflix instantly when HD comes out, Bluray's win didn't last long...

    "Netflix is planning HD streaming, and this box will support it. When Netflix gets HD streaming content, they'll update the box by firmware to support HD resolutions at higher bitrates of 4-6mbps, including 5.1 surround."
  • by tji (74570) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:37PM (#23481948)
    Roku had a really cool HD Media Player box, which was Linux based and extensible. If this thing is derived from that same platform (with hardware accelerated HD MPEG2 playback) this is a huge bargain.

    If it is a closed box, which only does Netflix, it is not so interesting.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tji (74570)
      There is a forum on Roku's site which has threads discussing this device:

      http://forums.roku.com/viewtopic.php?t=16685

      Unfortunately, it appears it is built as a "closed" device. But, if it could be hacked, the chip it's based on looks quite nice: http://www.nxp.com/#/aip/aip=[aip=416]|pp=[t=aip,i=416]

      The device is at least partially based on free software, so that may help in loading an alternate OS: http://forums.roku.com/viewtopic.php?t=16691

  • The rumor floating around earlier was that software would be available to PS3 and 360 owners so that they could watch these movies on their consoles. I've got a 360 and I already use it as my DVD player. I'd love to watch the streaming movies on the TV easily rather than use my computer either with its monitor or some complicated streaming setup (which is especially difficult since I use Linux and "Watch now" doesn't support Linux).
  • I love Netflix. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rindeee (530084) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @05:03PM (#23482402)
    And I'd LOVE to use their instant viewing feature but I don't have a Windows machine. I have a Mac Mini and a PS3 for all movie viewing via their respective media GUIs. Why Netflix doesn't have streaming on platforms other than Windows and these new dedicated devices is beyond me. It would certainly be cheap enough to do and provide instant market share for them.
    • They've publically stated that they've tried to bring the streaming service to Mac users, but couldn't find a DRM platform that was acceptable to their content providers that worked on MacOS.
  • I prefer iTunes, but I hope that competition from Netflix forces that idiot at the helm of Apple, what's his name - to realize that people actually like and want subscription based content.
  • What I would love to see is the ability to stream Netflix vids to my PS3....screw having to buy all these separate gadgets, let alone the space they take up.
  • by cybereal (621599) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @05:53PM (#23483222) Homepage
    See, I have the Apple TV, and I've loved it since day one. I double love it since the "2.0" major firmware updates and feature additions. But the wife, you see, has had netflix for years. And since they added the streaming movie feature, she watches maybe 4 or 5 flix that way a month. Thing is though, the selection pool is by and large old B movies nobody would've watched on purpose if they weren't really in the mood for something cheesy.

    So basically, the Apple TV and the Roku are rather complementary in my opinion. The Roku is the source for cheap totally random movie watching and the Apple TV gives me my higher end rentable new releases, my podcasts and music directly from my media housing computer, and lots of other nice aspects. So yeah, I don't see this really being any kind of direct competition unless you have absolutely no taste or preference of your movies, then I guess the cheapest crap in the barrel would please you as much as the top of it.

  • anthony wood (Score:4, Informative)

    by trb (8509) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @06:06PM (#23483432)
    The cnet article missed the interesting bit - that Roku's founder (and Replay TV's as well), Anthony Wood, worked at Neflix for a while on this and then returned to Roku, and Neflix bought a stake in Roku, as reported here. [yahoo.com]
    • by skelly33 (891182)
      I was more interested in CNET's Review [cnet.com] of the machine than in the news story. What struck me was how critical the reviewer was of the various properties (poor video quality, poor title availability, lack of surround sound, and poor on-screen controls), and yet... it still scored a 7.7 /10 - why, because he's giddy about the concept? I think the rating is far too kind and does little to encourage NetFlix to push for improvements in this thing.

      Actually the most compelling thing about this to me is that NetF
  • Umm, unless something has changed Netflix computer-based online streaming service doesn't work with OS X. If they want to compete with Apple for the Apple TV perhaps make the software so that Apple people can use their computer with it as well?
  • I'd like to know if the Netflix streaming service is coming to game consoles. They're powerful enough and connected enough to do this. Even the Wii, with its mere 730 MHz CPU, does near DVD quality internet streaming video through its "Nintendo Channel" (ads for games viewable on the console).
  • So, if the Roku set-top box runs Linux as shown here [slashdot.org] then why don't they support Linux with their regular desktop instant viewing service?
    • by Zarf (5735)

      So, if the Roku set-top box runs Linux as shown here [slashdot.org] then why don't they support Linux with their regular desktop instant viewing service?
      DRM.
  • I really wish that these types of devices would get away from the obsession with streaming.

    I say this because to accomplish "start playing the movie in two minutes" streaming you have to degrade the picture quality to a point that I find very noticeable (by both reducing the resolution and increasing the compression).

    I've had my bluray player and 46" 1080p TV for six months now and I've really gotten used to that quality level. Highly compressed 720p (or, oh god, 480p) looks like a big step backwards.

    So ple
  • Can we take this little box with us, and hook it up to the TV in our hotel room? Most hotel TV's do provide easy access to the external inputs (mostly for video games etc.), and many hotels provide ethernet/wifi. Seems like we could avoid the high cost of PPV etc.. Not sure what the average hotel internet bandwidth is though...seems like this still might be a useful option, and still better than watching movies on a laptop. Anyone tried this yet?

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