As if Roku boxes weren’t small enough, the set-top box company has announced a new product slightly ahead of CES that might have an impact on the televisions that consumers may buy in the future. The Streaming Stick is a small device that looks much like a USB wi-fi adapter or flash drive which plugs into an HDMI port to offer a very familiar Roku experience. The device uses MHL technology that exists in a couple of televisions and several smartphones already on the market, allowing direct power draw through the port as well as many features parallel to HDMI 1.4 spec including 1080p video and 7.1 channel surround sound. While MHL televisions are quite limited now, the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show will likely bring out a whole pack of them ready for use with this stick.
Roku’s strategy is to either bundle this device with MHL-enabled televisions at the point of sale (at first with Best Buy’s Insignia-branded sets) or eventually sell them directly to consumers. They also intend to stress the idea of updating the stick rather than the television, making an annual or biannual upgrade cost somewhere between $50 and $100 rather than the $600+ needed to replace to whole set. The key will be educating consumers on the MHL requirement, an idea that may be difficult for the non-technical among us to understand.