Set-top box maker Roku has some big competitors: Google TV, Apple TV, and Boxee to name a few. Each product brings video you usually find online to the living room via a set-top box. The problem with that is that many of us already have a set-top box from our cable company, or an Xbox or PS3, or both. There’s little point in spending hard-earned cash on a box that will duplicate one or more of the features you already have in your home theater set-up.
The new Roku LT hopes to woo customers with its charmingly slight $50 price tag. The little purple box comes in at 720p (the low end of HD video) and includes the Roku content partners their users have come to know and love: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, TWiT, and over 300 other channels. They’re hoping to draw the eye of folks whose TVs might already be connected, either natively or via their cable provider’s box. And, speaking as someone who hasn’t had cable in years, that’s an appealing offer. I’ve made due with Hulu and Netflix for a long time, but the prospect of loading crisp programming from Amazon Instant Video, Kung Fu Theater (yes, that’s a thing, a wonderful and magnificent thing), and Revision3 is tempting.
It’s not just for cable-cutters like me, though. Current HBO subscribers will be happy to know that the Roku LT also ushers in the addition of HBO GO to the Roku platform. I’m not sure why you would need a Roku if you’re already subscribed via your cable provider, but I guess the fact that you can take the Roku along on vacation is cool. It certainly makes for a better experience than straining to watch True Blood on your mobile phone.
$50 is definitely impulse-buy territory too, but it’s unclear whether or not Roku can truly garner the attention they’re hoping for in the shadow of bigger, more widely-known brands. The new LT device brings them to a total of four hardware products currently on sale. Each offers a different level of quality and interactivity, but that money may be better spent on advertising. Many people I speak to about geeky things like internet-enabled set-top boxes have never heard of Roku. Some don’t even know Apple TV exists. Apple TV! So there’s clearly a mind-share problem here that may continue to hold back an otherwise solid and affordable product.
For now, I’ll probably hold off on buying a Roku while I wait to see what Microsoft’s TV plans are for Xbox…
Image via Roku.com