To start, a bit of due disclosure: I both own and actively enjoy a Roku box. Having had Dish Network in the past, and seeing not only how easy it is to work a Roku box, but also ditch a full cable package thanks to one, I've seen a lot of value in these. But now, the Roku box is taking the next rational step and going into the full smart TV venue thanks to a partnership between Roku, Hisense and TCL.
The announcement came just ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) event, but won't be fully felt until later on this year. However, this isn't just an empty announcement, as the Hisense / TCL / Roku coalition will have several breeds of television on display. All the devices in question will be Wi-Fi compatible—not surprising given the Roku box itself—and displays are set to range from a respectable 32 inches to a living-room-worthy 55 inches. There's room in the interface for switching between other devices, including gaming systems and Blu-ray players, though there are still some missing points in terms of overall operation, including just how many HDMI ports and the like this thing is going to be packing, the frame rate involved, as well as the all-important aspect of price or just when said devices will be available for purchase.
The good part about this arrangement is that Hisense and TCL are free to work on the television itself while Roku sticks to the fine art of keeping up the content side of the equation. That's a good partnership, and one that will likely be valuable in a market where, increasingly, most every television that can be bought is a smart television. Naturally, not everyone's looking for a new television right now, so Roku will continue to offer things like the Roku Streaming Stick as well as its line of set-top boxes to help keep the older model televisions in line with streaming capability. Further benefit comes from the fact that, at last report, the planned remote for the device will prove par for the Roku course, with a greatly simplified interface. Reports suggest that the remote for the streaming televisions will offer up just 20 buttons, a huge step down from standard remote control schemes.
Roku certainly has plenty to offer in the way of content. Not only is it packing in major features like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video, it also has channels that require a cable authenticator like WATCH Disney and TWC TV Video on Demand, as well as smaller channels that focus on unusual content like satirical news kingpins the Onion News Channel or Smithsonian TV. Some larger-scale efforts like PBS Kids Go also come into play here, and give Roku viewers plenty of material from which to choose.
Granted, the Roku television is going to have quite a bit of competition going into the field, and that may not bode well for the whole operation. But Roku does have quite a bit of content on its side going in, and that could be edge enough to give Roku a good slice of the market. Only time will tell just how it all comes out, but Roku has a good position going in, and may be able to hold that advantage.
Edited by Cassandra Tucker