Media company Roku is upping their streaming game by announcing the arrival of a HDMI stick, which will work much like Google’s Chromecast. Last week, the cable box-alternative company revealed their slimmed down streaming device for a light $50, which will offer the same features the company’s larger boxes have access to.
The Streaming Stick offers an alternative to adding yet another box to users’ entertainment center by plugging directly into the back of a television and hiding from plain sight, making it ideal for wall-mounted units. While this is not Roku’s first foray into streaming stick distribution, it is the company’s first take on a smaller device that will work on the majority of today’s televisions. Previously, the company produced an HDMI stick that works only with Roku-ready televisions and products. This is the company’s first of this kind to allow access to a broader audience.
While Roku may be new to the HDMI streaming stick game, the company provides over 1,200 “channels,” or apps, through its boxed sets like the Roku 1, 2 and 3 boxes. These streaming players, which come with their own remotes as opposed to strictly being required to control from a phone or tablet through an app, are currently offered for prices between $50 and $100. The Streaming Stick will have access to all of these channels and feature the same user interface. Lloyd Klarke, director of product management for Roku, which is based out of Saratoga, CA, concludes customers “liked the form factor. What they wanted was a stick they could attach to their monitor at home.”
Some may see a direct comparison to Google’s own solution to streaming media, the Chromecast. Introduced last year, the Chromecast also plugs into the back of a television and offers streaming through a multitude of apps such as Hulu Plus, HBO Go and Netflix. While Google has yet to release any numbers on Chromecast’s sales, the cheap $35 price tag has kept the product at the top of Amazon’s electronics top-sellers list. One major feature Chromecast holds over the Streaming Stick is the ability to cast the Google Chrome browser from your laptop to your television screen. This enables users to watch even more content than what is available through the apps.
However, Klarke would like to clarify: “What we really want to make sure that people understand is that this is a solution.” While Google offers a far more limited number of apps, Roku’s service leap frogs that number. The Streaming Stick will also come with a remote, for those users who believe buttons are a necessity for television control. The company also plans to release an Android and iOS app with the release of the product.
The Streaming Stick is currently available for preorder on Roku’s website, and is slated for release in April. The company has big hopes for this tiny product. As of 2013, there were 8 million Roku players in the world, which stream about 1.7 billion hours of programming. According to Klarke, Roku plans that number to grow exponentially.
By Nathan Rohenkohl