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Roku Announces New Product: Streaming Stick for Cord-Free Hookup

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Call it the evolution of the set-top box or perhaps an entirely new product category: Today, Roku announced the Roku Streaming Stick, a compact dongle that delivers the company's platform and channels in a simpler, cord-free way.

The Roku Streaming Stick will reach the market in the second half of 2012. Roughly the size of a USB flash drive, the device plugs into an HDMI port on televisions that offer MHL-enabled HDMI. MHL stands for mobile high-definition link, and it's an enhancement currently built into sets by Samsung and Toshiba, among others.

Besides offers a more convenient, out-of-the-way design, the Roku Streaming Stick lets viewers use one remote to control both their TV and their Roku selections, reducing clutter in the living room. The company is pitching it as a way to turn a regular TV into a smart TV, with frequent software updates.

Roku Streaming Stick with TVOne area where the Streaming Stick won't offer an advantage is price. In an interview with StreamingMedia.com, Roku's CEO Anthony Wood said that the device will range in price from $50 to $100, the same as Roku's current set-top lineup. Higher-priced models, Wood offered, might come with a motion-aware remote, as does the Roku 2 XS, so that owners can play games.

The Roku Streaming Stick's setup and experience should be identical to that offered by the company's set-top boxes. Owners will stream via their wireless home networks and have access to the same channels. Roku will offer a promotion with Best Buy at launch, where the retailer will bundle the Streaming Stick with its Insignia line of TVs.

Roku's hallmark has been simplicity up to this point, and the company is taking a gamble by offering a product that only works with MHL-enabled HDMI ports. Certainly many buyers will be uncertain as to whether or not the Streaming Stick will work with their sets.

Despite the rise of connected TVs, Wood believes there will always be a market for set-top box accessories.

"We think streaming TVs will slowly gain market share, but they're not going to be the only way people stream," Wood said. "The way we view the situation is there's lots of ways people get streaming content these days."

In related news, Roku and Brightcove today announced a Showtime app for Roku devices that offers promotional content from the cable network. Viewers will be able to sample scenes, interviews, and full episodes from original Showtime series such as Shameless and House of Lies. The free app is available today.

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