It must be a Roku kind of day, I guess. In addition to the new Showtime content we wrote about earlier today, Roku is looking to capture a new revenue stream with a product they're calling the Roku Streaming Stick. Essentially, it's a little stick the size of a USB drive that plugs into your non-smart TV's HDMI port. Then, due to the magic of science, you'll have access to any of your standard Roku content, including Netflix and Hulu.
Roku Streaming Stick
The Roku Streaming Stick is sort of a portable version of their set-top box. Inside that little USB-drive-sized stick is a processor, WiFi capabilities, and much more. It allows you to plug into any compatible TV and make it "smart." Considering how expensive TVs are, Roku is betting that many consumers would rather buy a $50 stick to turn their TV smart than drop another $1500 on a true Smart TV. It's a fantastic idea, but one that has a few possible issues.
First of all, the Roku Streaming Stick only works on TV's that have HDMI ports that are MHL-enhanced–those are the HDMI ports that can also deliver power in order to charge devices that are plugged in. You can simply look at your HDMI port to find out if yours will work–it'll have the letters "MHL" printed right there.
The real problem with the MHL caveat is that only the most recent televisions have that kind of HDMI port. So if you bought a new TV a year ago, like me… and it isn't smart, like mine isn't… you still won't be able to use the Roku Streaming Stick. Bummer.
Also, I'm not sure what this Streaming Stick does that the regular Roku box doesn't do–outside of the ability to be portable. If I'm at home, I probably have the Roku box hooked up to my TV already… the Streaming Stick only becomes a benefit if I have another TV in the house (without a Roku box) that I want to use it on, or if I want to take it with me on a trip. And while that's a pretty cool benefit to be able to have… I wonder how big the market is for it.
The Roku Streaming Stick device will sell for somewhere between $50-$100, and will go on sale about halfway through the 2012 year.