Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Things that don't matter: The Netflix/Roku Box

So I turned on my portable Digging machine today (the one I just reformatted per last post) and what do I find? It turns out Netflix has put a box made by Roku that will stream movies right to your TV [Via Gizmodo]. Wow, sounds like it could be the next big thing! I mean if Netflix put out a decent box that lets you get access to all their movies and basically skip the snail mail part...it would crush other rental places and put up serious competition with cable-based Video-On-Demand (VOD). There's just one problem...
Netflix Roku Box
Their box really doesn't do that. While it has a wide variety of hook-ups and has the potential to output HD, the streaming video is less than HD and the selection of movies is the same as their limited online streaming collection. So for 100 dollars plus a Netflix plan greater than 9 bucks a month (which many people already have) you can have a little box on your TV that will limitlessly stream classic movies, movies no one would ever buy, and some television episodes (though I hear the selection is good). All of these are things already available for free to watch online (so in theory one could port that video to their larger screen) and the one thing to make the box worth it, HD, isn't there. Yet.

Some might compare this to Netflix's roll out of streaming video (about a year ago?). They were slowly offering more and more customers thousands of videos that would be available on the spot. Not only was the roll out pseudo-viral (and thus more exciting to some), it was free for as many hours as you already paid dollars a month. This was a genius move in my opinion because the price was right, the plan seemed fair and reasonable, and at the worst you got an extra feature. The Roku box, on the other hand, costs money and doesn't offer much. Actually worse, it offers something that is free already online. Sure the online is limited, but the amount of good content available has always limited my watching much more than the physical limits.

The real reason this box is news isn't because of what it offers, but what it MIGHT offer. See, if the movies began streaming in HD, the list of titles opened up to at least the same quantity that the mail service has, and the box had maybe one more "kicker," then this would be the product of the century. Until that happens, this will be yet another product with no serious "buy me" factor and lots of potential. Potential that costs 100 bucks, plus plan.

Check out the Gizmodo story for all the tech specs. Roll out your feelings on the above...below...

Update: Well it turns out it may matter at least somewhat more than I thought. It seems NetFlix plans to drop that silly "movies through the mail" idea in the NEXT FIVE YEARS. That's a pretty big business plan change. Read more about it here.
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The content of this page is completely the creation and opinion of James Rogers. He is affiliated with Connect Mason and formerly Broadside Online but the relationship only governs republication, not content.

Further, in the interest of full disclosure, this author holds minor financial investments in Apple, Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices.