The success of the Google Chromecast, after the failure of Google TV was nothing but spectacular. A new interface, a new format and a much lower price point pushed the product to the top "most wanted" spots over the holiday season. That did not go without notice and Roku, who probably felt a sudden threat looming, decided it was time to leap into action and try to keep from hemorrhaging customers by introducing its own low cost OTT option. A $50 option in fact, behold, the Roku Stick.
About the size of a pack of Wrigley's chewing gum the Roku Stick, as in, something you beat a dead horse with, is really just a revamp of their previous "stick" the Roku Ready Stick (as opposed to an Unready stick).
Foot Steps in the Sand
Following the Chromecast footprints the new Roku Stick will let you do things like send video or app select output (read Netflix & YouTube for now) from your mobile device to your TV screen (casting, or screen casting as it were). The uptick here is that you'll get a Roku Remote with it (justifying the $15 higher price point) as opposed to the Chromecast which requires a smartphone for navigation.
While both companies are trying to capture the OTT imaginations of the masses, they are taking two decidedly different tracks to do it. Roku is going for the slow and easy approach. They offer a more traditional remote and are slowing rolling out apps that will offer screen casting.
Google, on the other edge of the blade, is allowing devs to take control of when they roll out casting in their apps via an SDK and went a more cutting edge route with the smartphone control of the device. So the two audiences they're targeting are slightly different in terms of technical savvy. I mean, who wants to try to teach their grandparents how to navigate a Chromecast via their touch screen phone and alternatively, who wants yet another remote lying around the living room when the smartphone is always at hand, right?
Next to Enter the OTT Low Cost Rumble?
So we've got a Google contender and a Roku contender, who's going to be next into the fray? Well, I could see Apple following suit and revamping a product into an iStick or sorts. I don't see Samsung caring much as you can do a lot of this stuff already with a Samsung phone and Smart TV. I think Sony has other things to concern themselves with presently so they're probably not interested. Cisco could totally get into it if they were so included but I think not as they're still more interested in other networking endeavors.
What would really be interesting would be if the MSO/MVPDs got into it and started co-branding someone's OTT products and then offering them as incentives when subscribers increase their Internet packages. However, since they might have all oversold their networks already, they might still see OTT as a threat to their bottom lines.
But don't worry, I'm sure there will be a long list of new low cost OTT appliances in the pipeline soon. After all, if Google and Roku are already doing it, there will be many to follow. Perhaps Ouya might expand away from just games and into video apps and OTT as well. That would really be something there. I know they had recently mentioned they are interested in having Ouya embedded into other devices, so why not into OTT boxes, and/or work on their own OTT box?