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May 21, 2008

Roku: The Apple of TV?

By Rich Tehrani, President and Editor-in-Chief

Without a doubt, the new Netflix Player by Roku set top box will become a serious contender for the title "iPod of the world of television." I haven't seen this device yet but based on what I have read on Tom Keating's blog and on the New York Times, it is a killer offering.

Here are the details-- a $100 set top box, a sub $10/month subscription and a Web-based interface which helps you narrow down movie selections from a total of 10,000 Netflix offerings which are ultimately made by remote control.

At these price points some could be tempted to give up cable TV service altogether and if the box gains traction, it can become the TV delivery mechanism of the future -- worldwide.

I am not naive enough to think Roku will easily take over the world as Apple, Microsoft (News - Alert), the cable companies and phone companies will be looking to do everything short of hiring hit men (is hit persons more PC?).

Expect the box to eventually support YouTube (News - Alert), streaming TV and perhaps newer movies.

Really, everyone should be gunning for Roku except for content providers (including Yahoo! and Google (News - Alert)) and chip manufacturers who can benefit from lower cost distribution and the sale of products to this consumer electronics company.

It is not hard to see Roku becoming a telephony provider in the future by upgrading these boxes with ATA functionality.

Expect this company to be included in net neutrality discussions of the future and if they aren't purchased in six months I will be very surprised. If Vonage had the finances or access to capital -- their brand would be a huge help in getting this box in millions of homes as fast as possible. They should consider a merger.

Then there is Google who could get broader YouTube penetration. Apple and Microsoft would gain more traction in homes and take out a competitor. Cable and phone companies have to buy this company to protect the TV cash cow, etc. The list of potential partners/acquirers seems endless.

See Also:
FCC: Worry about TVoIP not Cable

Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor in Chief at TMC (News - Alert). In addition he is the Chairman of the world’s best attended VoIP event, Internet Telephony Conference & Expo.

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