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Thumbdrive-Sized Streaming Media Players Coming Soon 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the size-does-matter dept.
DeviceGuru writes "Roku is building its streaming media player technology into a thumbdrive-style device that will plug directly into a TV's HDMI port. The Roku Streaming Stick, to be priced in the $50-$100 range, will convert ordinary TVs into smart TVs, according to CEO Anthony Wood. One catch is that it will depend on the TV having at least one Mobile High-Definition Link (MHDL) compliant HDMI port. The new standard is not widely supported yet, with only Nokia, Samsung, Silicon Image, Sony, and Toshiba listed as members on the MHDL Consortium's web page."
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Thumbdrive-Sized Streaming Media Players Coming Soon

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba make most of the TVs available around here, certainly all of the ones of decent quality. How much more support do you need?

    • by iiiears (987462)

      Cinavia - No Blu-ray streaming. Please, Buy another new Sony T.V. with this amazing capability.

  • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:17AM (#38593654) Journal

    So you get this super-nifty thing which can only be attached to the most super-nifty of the HDMI ports, which will only be equipped to begin with on devices which were already super-nifty.

    So, I guess the choices are as thus (since keeping an old TV and buying a new Roku isn't an option):

    1. Keep old TV, buy old Roku.

    2. Buy new TV, keep old Roku.

    3. Buy new super-nifty TV, don't bother with super-nifty Roku because the super-nifty is already built into the TV.

    (4. Oh, yeah: At no point is there any functional merit to a new super-nifty Roku. Neat!)

    • by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @04:10AM (#38593890)

      My New Years Eve.

      I was playing around with a digital antenna to get a sub channel. One reason why I quit cable was because they weren't required to support them... I wanted to watch Kohaku on UTB 18.2 Hollywood. I am forced to use this piece of trash [bestbuy.com] since it was all they had at bestbuy. It literally has 1.5 out of 5 stars. As I ask myself why I am moving this box around the room having to scan for channels in this day and age, I give up because the digital channel in MY NEIGHBORHOOD isn't picked up by the scanner no matter how hard I try, given the limitations imposed by the length of the power cord and the random antenna I chose.

      I'm thinking, good thing I picked up a Roku box while I was at bestbuy for plan B... I heard about it, and just assumed it was a smart device that would magically find content given it is online. Felt like there were a few unnecessary steps, but I get it to work, only to find that it just has a bunch of youtube-like channels, but no youtube!? No access to any of the upload sites. WTF? If I wanted Angry Bird I'd just get the app, thank you. So what is the hooplah? The channels suck.

      I hop online to lookup Roku alternatives, thinking I must have been thinking of something else... Find Boxee, and figure that must have been the magic box. I find I don't even need to buy one. I can just install it on my computer. Brilliant!

      90MB download, installed, I try to run it, "dll not found". Silence. It turns out you need to install DirectX manually, but at this point if my Windows 7 doesn't support it, and no one cared to mention it during the install, I figure Boxee doesn't deserve any more attention.

      So I end up just hooking up my PC as is to the TV... Shit, it works. I can watch anything. Brilliant!!!

      What are all these boxes really about!?!? ...my last WTF and OMG moment of 2011.

      • by Monoman (8745)

        I guess the point is that some of the new TVs being sold as "smart" TVs with Roku/Boxee/etc like functionality built in. Some are fine, some aren't as good as the Roku. We ditched pay TV service almost 6 months ago and now our "TV" consists of Netflix, Netflix online, Hulu Plus, and whatever else we can find online. The Roku allows us to use an older not "smart" TV to watch Hulu Plus and Netflix online. Sure there are other "channels" we don't use much but those two alone make it worth it for us.

      • by Xoltri (1052470)
        Well I can speak to this as I think I have the ideal setup for my needs. I ditched satellite TV about 6 months ago and have been getting all of my content online.

        I have two boxee boxes and a home theater PC. Boxee is awesome in finding online content for you and indexing it. If you want to watch a show, you just start typing, for example 'Dirty Jobs' and it will show you all the episodes available online. When you click on one it will take you to the exact page on the Discovery website the episode is
    • The point is, with this device, there is no DRM involved, and your TV won't be able to report the file names of the movies you watch to the MPAA.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Of course everyone is you, and therefore everyone already owns an HDTV. And a Roku box.

      • by adolf (21054)

        What does your snarkiness have to do with...well, anything that I wrote?

    • by Junta (36770)

      I think the 'thumb stick' form factor is a tad more than necessary and in general am disappointed with Roku as a limited platform, but TV integrated stuff is less desireable for two reasons:

      1) It is generally even *more* limited than Roku.

      2) Some people avoid all-in-one systems where a perfectly fine monitor has to be replaced to reasonably upgrade the system. A large display is significantly more cost than the ~20" desktop monitors. If the TV still is sufficient 5 years from now, but a new codec requires

      • by adolf (21054)

        1) Is it limited in ways that actually matter for most people?

        2) So use the built-in thing, and then plug a box in later. *shrug* This isn't the 90s where having built-in whiz-bang functionality adds physical size to a display like a built-in VCR, where things had few (if any) external inputs.

        This is 2012, and the whiz-bang functionality doesn't take up any perceptible space inside of a display. And it's generally included whether you want it or not. And if it gets tired as formats progress and march

        • by Junta (36770)

          1) It matters to me, and that's the only one who counts ;)

          2) That's a valid point.

          3) Also a valid point, though I think BD players are more likely to have less emphasis on extensibility than either baked-in 'internet tv' solutions or streaming-dedicated boxes.

          I will say that new platforms coming out today may be obsoleted sooner than you would guess. It seems to be that up to very recently, netflix and hulu+ covered most realistic mass-market canned setups (hulu *non* plus will be forever relegated to h

          • by adolf (21054)

            All of them are pretty well closed-up and lacking extensibility. But the boy's cheap Blu-Ray player grows new features from time to time despite this. (I assume that the manufacturer gets some manner of kickback for supporting the myriad of network streaming options that it does, as there's no other way for them to make money by continuing to support a device which is already sold and I simply don't believe in corporate goodwill at the razor-thin-margin area of consumer electronics.)

            Perhaps more to the po

    • So, I guess the choices are as thus (since keeping an old TV and buying a new Roku isn't an option):

      1. Keep old TV, buy old Roku.

      2. Buy new TV, keep old Roku.

      3. Buy new super-nifty TV, don't bother with super-nifty Roku because the super-nifty is already built into the TV.

      (4. Oh, yeah: At no point is there any functional merit to a new super-nifty Roku. Neat!)

      Agreed, why limit the device to a port that was introduced only 6 months ago and still isn't finalized? [wikipedia.org] My first thought was: "Why don't they use standard HDMI and draw power from a USB port?"

      Many HDTVs have a USB port so that makes sense, but I thought maybe the Mobile High definition Link (MHL) [wikipedia.org] port must put out more power than USB but it doesn't, MHL puts out 500mA @ 5V [goodandevo.net] just like USB. [wikipedia.org]

      So again I wonder, why not use power from a unused USB port and go with standard HDMI and be compatible with milli

    • by cthulhu11 (842924)
      Given that Roku staunchly and anomalously refuses to support DivX, ^Roku^BoxeeBox
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:27AM (#38593696)

    I'm guessing this sort of port will only be found on a smart TV - so, really, where's the market for a device designed to "convert ordinary TVs into smart TVs" that requires that port?

    Really, the fundamental issue is the market for devices like the Roku box or AppleTV is drying up as more and more televisions come with the same functionality built in. They're still iterating on what's rapidly becoming an obsolete product segment - sort of like how Palm kept releasing new takes on the PDA long after stand-alone PDAs became irrelevant.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Good point. Maybe somebody didn't figure out the "?" part of the SPUG (South Park Underpants Gnome) theme.

    • by delinear (991444)

      I'm guessing this sort of port will only be found on a smart TV - so, really, where's the market for a device designed to "convert ordinary TVs into smart TVs" that requires that port?

      I guess it's possible that someone could come up with a converter for MHDL to HDMI. Perhaps they already exist and they just didn't include it in the Roku for price considerations. Even so it's going to be an increasingly shrinking market of people who already have a TV that's good enough quality they don't want to replace it, not so good that it doesn't already have any of these features, and don't mind spending $100 for the Roku plus whatever the converter might cost to keep an old set functional.

      It's alr

      • I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it'll be as simple as a power injector like current MHL to HDMI adapters use to connect some cell phones to TVs. Slip it between your MHDL dongle and the HDMI port on your TV and you're set. Or they'll just put a power port on the dongle that can tap a USB port for juice. Many TVs have USB ports. Limiting their customer base to a small percentage of flat panel owners would be ridonkulous.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Wrong. MHL uses HDMI ports but not HDMI signalling. They are not limiting their customer base, because they already have devices which connect to ordinary televisions.

      • by iiiears (987462)

        There are adapters like this but if you like Blu-ray HiDef The sound will cut out a few minutes in. It doesn't work..

        Sony will sell you a new Cinavia capable T.V.

    • by sincewhen (640526)

      But this is what worries me with "smart TVs". They won't be smart enough for long. When a new site comes out e.g. FaceTwit, will the TV be updated to support it?
      Well, it wouldn't be in the manufacturer's interests, as they will want you to buy a new TV. So unless it can be rooted and runs an open source OS like Android, so you can take charge of updates yourself, your shiny new smart TV will quickly become out-of-date.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        HTPC exist for this purpose.
        Dumb TV + HTPC vastly superior to smart TV.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        Most "smart TVs" are extensible (they're marketed as having "apps" for various services), and many of them support third party plugins developed to a published spec. TV manufacturers understand that people aren't going to go out and buy a new TV just because it lets them watch YouTube.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:37AM (#38593732)

    So.. rolling my own from a raspberry pi will still be the best option this year? That comes with a bog standard hdmi port.
    http://www.raspberrypi.org/

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Vehement agreemsg. I have a television that cost more than I've paid for many of my used cars, and which has only one problem (occasionally confusing inputs 7 and 8... hilarious. I don't use them anymore, it has plenty of them.) I'm not going to go buy another one to get a MHL port. But I *do* plan to buy a R-Pi when I can just order one, put it in a cute little clear enclosure, and attach it to the standard mount points on the rear of the TV, which is not wall-mounted. I have a bluetooth dongle for it alre

      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        Good for you - but if you can't be bothered, you can buy realtek 1186-based boxes where they're already done this work. And the realtek chip will decode practically every movie format there is.

        On the other hand, if you do make such a thing, publish the specs and tutorials - it'll be a practical real-world use to put the Pi to, and I'm sure the software will be vastly improved over the existing boxes.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Honestly, I expect to find that by the time I actually get my grubby hands on one, there will be at least most of a solution. My fantasy is that there's a beta of XBMC already floating around that works on it by then.

          If you can point me to a rtl1186-based system that will do this for say $40 or less then I'll consider it.

  • HDMI is ok, (Score:4, Interesting)

    by klingens (147173) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @04:44AM (#38594016)

    but what other connectors does it have? USB? Ethernet? WLAN? SD Card? If so, it's another Raspberry Pi, just a lot smaller. And if we are lucky it has an A8 and maybe more memory.
    Root it and you have a nice little cheap home Linux server. I can dream, right?

    • by will_die (586523)
      It does not use HDMI it uses MHDL which is just coming into the market.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      It almost certainly has no other connectors, and communicates with the remote via bluetooth and the network via wifi. In a package that size, fitting an ethernet jack is infeasible. It's also possible it will get network through the connector, I don't know too much about MHL yet.

  • The problem with most of these streaming devices is that they can't play all media formats. Yes, you can play Netflix etc., but you can't play all of the existing media you have somewhere on a network share. Most of these devices just decode via some chip, so if there's a new video format (like we have now with Hi10p files), you're out of luck. Also I so far had no luck finding one which could handle styled subtitles (karaoke etc.) well.

    So for me the only solution is a home-built PC with a good graphics car

    • by LanMan04 (790429)

      I've had fantastic success with the WDTV Live Streaming whatever-the-hell-it's-called:

      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005KOZNBW/ref=oh_o02_s00_i00_details [amazon.com]

      Plays anything I throw at it (samba share, NFS share, media server like orb, local storage, etc) and does just about every online video service (netflix, blockbuster, etc).

      Picked it up for $89 in November. Fantastic!

    • by eldepeche (854916)

      I've been very happy with my Boxee box. I haven't found a local video file it won't play, and it has hardware-accelerated flash for playing random web videos. The video decoding is based on ffmpeg, I believe.

  • can somebody explain why computer attached to tv is worse than smart tv, dumb tv with smart something TV-specialized?
    Is this a price issue?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Yes, a Roku box costs sixty bucks and more and more people's only computer is a netbook. The latest and greatest of those are starting to get Micro-HDMI output, but only the VERY latest are suitable for use as a media player (they need a decent GPU; the first generation of netbooks all had pathetic graphics and wouldn't do 1080p, or wouldn't do it acceptably) and they can't handle doing that AND websurfing even if the cables weren't a hassle. So you get a cute little Roku or similar to handle media. I was t

      • by CCurzon (1936782)

        I got a second hand desktop with a decent video card for $30. Wiped and reinstalled Windows, installed XBMC and it's good to go. Added a wireless keyboard with built in track pad for $40 and I could control it from anywhere.

        Granted, though, I already had a network set up in my house as well as a desktop with significant storage on it, so the solution isn't as great for everyone.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I have such a machine but it is big, ugly, and noisy. So right now I use the Wii, but I use it only for Netflix. I have local content I would like to stream, but I find the interfaces available on the Wii frustrating and the hardware incapable.

    • can somebody explain why computer attached to tv is worse

      Home theater PCs have proven to be for geeks only [pineight.com] for several reasons:

      • No major PC maker ships affordable PCs with competent media center software already installed. Windows Media Center isn't really a match for XBMC. Microsoft wants people to buy an Xbox 360 and use that as a Windows Media Center extender, and Apple wants people to buy an Apple TV and use that as an iTunes extender.
      • Spouse acceptance factor. Ordinary tower PCs are so big that they look out of place next to a TV, and they generate too much
  • Since when are ports like that found on "ordinary" television sets? An "ordinary" set is lucky to have even a composite RCA plug input, or maybe it has just been awhile since I purchased one?
    • We're talking about new TVs, the kind sold at Best Buy, ABC Warehouse, H.H. Gregg, Walmart, and the like. If you buy your TVs at Goodwill or the pawn shop, they'll be a decade behind the latest technology.
  • ....it's using the lame HDMI.

    It's not like we have established a nice USB format that could be used, and could perhaps use a raspberry pi-like system to just allow people to copy movies, files, etc into the device for display on their tv?

    Heavens, we need to be sure DRM is built in there somewhere. :(

    • HDMI for display is a no brainer imho. Many cheap ARM chips are coming with HDMI chip support these days, and essentially all TVs made in the last 5+ years comes with an HDMI port. For HD output, compatibility and low prices, there are no competitors.

      USB would be a nice addition, but you're not seriously suggesting using USB as video out? I know there are adapters, but at 480 mbps video needs heavy recompression to output anywhere near HD output. Also copying movies through USB into the device sucks. Much

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      ....it's using the lame HDMI.

      No, it is not. you don't even have to RTFA, just RTFS.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Posting as AC because I modded here... This little device I'm sure comes with 'convenient' DRM. Mainly though, what's on TV that you must have a TV to watch? Nothing you can't get on the internet with the computer you already have. I literally can't remember the last time I watched television in my home. Literally. It's been at least a couple of years. Shelling out dough for a DRM-crippled device that has less functionality than what I already have? No thanks.
  • Keeping the "smart" separate from the "TV" is the right thing to do. If you think an '80s car with a clunky old tape deck is funny, wait until your TV has an 8-year-old HTPC permanently embedded in it...

    BTW this sounds like that "popcorn hour" thing. I haven't paid much attention to it since it's a closed toy, but sounds like just a smaller version of the same thing.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      pretty much.

      However, the 'popcorn hour' and similar (cheaper) boxes like the Himedia, WD TV Live, Elion Labon, Mede8er etc are all pretty nice. They're basically streamer clients - you plug it into your network and then you can stream your video files from your PC to it and watch them on yout TV with minimum (ie no) hassle.

      The better ones come with video jukebox style screens, and can have HDDs embedded in them. But basically, that's all they are - video decoders for your TV.

      They're quite convenient things

    • by brianerst (549609)

      That's apparently the reason for creating the Roku thumbdrive in the first place - to separate out the smart from the TV. BestBuy is going to package them with their Insignia TVs [pcmag.com] and Roku is trying to get other manufacturers to do the same.

      When the latest super-duper codec or app comes out that cannot be handled with a simple firmware update, you pitch the old $50 dongle and plug in the new $50 dongle. The $600 TV stays.

      It seems like a pretty good idea - its the implementation details that we need to see.

  • So most TVs that will support this dongle already offer the major features that it provides. So it certainly won't provide a big burst of sales for Roku at the outset. What Roku will need to do to make the product a success is to provide a better user interface to the streaming services that it supports, and do a better job of keeping their device updated than the TV manufacturers do. This might not be too hard. While modern TVs are updatable, TV manufacturers tend to be far more interested in selling new T

  • I looked at their pages and cant seem to find out if it will stream from MY server, or just 'external' services.

    • by dhickman (958529)
      I have been running iptv for years. I started with a Mythbox to replace my tivo around 2003 and eventually hooked a pc up to the tv and placed the server in the computer room.

      The next step was hacking an apple tv (1) and using it as a front end and to play boxee and other content. It worked well until the MKV format started to dominate.

      When the boxee box came out, I bought it, retired my old mythbox and started to use my own file server and netflix.

      I recently bought an Xbox 360, and use it for Espn
      • by Belial6 (794905)
        The next version of XBMC that is currently in Beta will support the CEC. CEC is the Consumer Electronics Control standard that is part of HDMI. HDMI does not require devices to use it, but requires them not to interfere with it. Both of my Vizio TVs support CEC, so I assume it is not real hard to find. Some people have been reporting that their computers support it without an external adapter. For those who's HTPCs don't support it, there is the CEC-USB device that will add support for CEC to your PC.
        • by dhickman (958529)
          Now this is interesting. I have a sharp aquos and the tv controls the amp and dvd player via CEC (Aquos link.)

          The set top box makers will never support this because they want their device to be the centerpiece of your home theatre.

          dhh

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