While Apple TV remains a hobby, Roku streams ahead with updated hardware and a user interface primed for discovery.
Apple TV might own the rumor-mill, and other major brands are starting to introduce Internet-connected smart TVs. But Roku, the first device to offer a way to stream Netflix on a TV, is still leading the pack with its portfolio of 750 channels.
And today the company announced its newest box, Roku 3. It includes a faster chip, and the first major upgrade to the user interface since the original player was introduced in 2008.
"It’s the next step in our Roku OS as we try and move from not just streaming players but also into TV," Roku founder and CEO Anthony Wood told Fast Company earlier today. “It’s moving the [user interface] to become a complete TV operating system.”
There’s also a novel feature you won’t find elsewhere: The Roku 3 remote, which is already a motion-sensitive game controller, now has a built-in headphone jack. A set of in-ear headphones is included, and the volume can be controlled from the remote as well.
The hardware has changed on the outside as well. The box, which still fits easily into the palm of one hand, now has rounded corners and a more oval form factor.
Browsing channels wasn’t a problem back when the Roku store launched, but the linear scrolling is cumbersome now that there are hundreds of channels. To streamline the process, Roku’s universal search function is now more integrated into the interface—rather than being a channel of its own—and the main screen has more options.
Roku is also touting this as its fastest, most powerful player to date with a new Broadcom dual-core A9 processor. As Gigaom reported from Mobile World Congress, Broadcom highlighted a partnership with Roku to provide Miracast—which lets devices communicate directly—though the company hasn’t confirmed whether or not it will be available on the Roku 3. This could provide an alternative users who are looking for Apple TV’s Airplay syncing capabilities.
The Roku 3 will retail for $99.99, and it’s available starting in April.
If you want to learn more about the way Roku, which was recently named one of The World’s Most Innovative Companies, CEO Anthony Wood is speaking at the SXSW Startup Alley on Sunday, March 10, 3:30PM.
[Image courtesy of Roku]