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Roku Announces Streaming Stick to Ship in Late October

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Set-top box creator Roku has announced that its newest product, the Roku Streaming Stick, will be available in late October, probably in the third week. The product won't have retail distribution at first, so those interested should shop the Roku site. The Stick will list for $99.99.

A departure from previous Roku products, the Streaming Stick works with MHL-enabled HDMI ports only. This could easily be a point of confusion for consumers who barely know what an HDMI port is, let alone MHL. That MHL HDMI port lets Roku create a more smart TV-like experience with the Streaming Stick, since buyers can control Roku menus with their regular remote. The Stick will come with a motion-enabled remote that works with downloadable Roku games, but the regular TV remote will work with standard Roku menu functions. Using the Stick instead of a set-top box will also let consumers hide the unit and avoid having extra cables and cords on their television.

Roku is working with manufacturers such as Apex, Insignia/Best Buy, and Hitachi to offer Roku-compatible televisions. They'll offer Roku-branded packaging that shows Streaming Stick compatibility. In the future, the Streaming Stick will even work with home theater accessories, such as Blu-ray Players and receivers, that have an MHL HDMI port. Roku is working with partners now to create those accessories, and to create bundled deals where consumers can buy a TV and a Streaming Stick at the same time.

The Stick includes a few changes from previous Roku devices: it uses a more robust Wi-Fi, and communicates with its remote via Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth. It also offers more onboard memory, used primarily for downloadable apps.

The Streaming Stick was first announced in January, 2012.

Roku is also announcing that its iOS and Android apps have been updated to include Play on Roku, a new feature that allows users to stream photos or music from their devices to a Roku-connected television. This feature will also work with the Streaming Stick, once it's released.

Additionally, Roku announced that Vudu, the video-on-demand movie rental service owned by Walmart, is now available as a Roku channel. Vudu's library has over 100,000 movie and TV shows.

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