It is not that we use technology, we live technology. “ this is a quote by Godfrey Reggio, an American director who automatically reminds one of Roku, which is an American publicly traded company that connects the users to their preferred streaming content from various online services. It also aided content providers and publishers in building and monetizing large audiences. They did it along with providing marketers with a variety of methods to connect with consumers. It is designed to integrate into people’s daily lives to make them easier and more enjoyable.
In this age of newfangled streaming services that allow us to surf content at our leisure, there has to be at least one popup advert on your screen asking you to buy a Roku player. Coupled with the fact that it is one of the earliest digital media players and was developed in collaboration with the entertainment giant Netflix, it should be enough to grab your attention if it hasn’t already. The first model was developed in the year 2008. And since then, there have been nine generations and each more successful and studded with an array of features that makes it an attractive proposition for the modern customer. As of August 2021, there are over 55 million active Roku accounts. This data is according to its quarterly earnings report.
Roku has had a somewhat shaky start. Besides, it got almost axed in the initial stages. Anthony Wood, the English-born American businessman who founded RokuInc, started working on Project Griffin in 2002, which involved manufacturing a set-top box that would allow customers to stream Netflix content into their TVs directly. However, Netflix figured it was way too risky; the third-party services could cause an issue with their license agreements and potentially keep Netflix off other similar platforms. Sadly, Project Griffin was send off to flames.
But Netflix found a way to restore some semblance of it to life by spinning off the company. In 2008, Roku manufactured its first set-top box. After that, there was no looking back. By 2010 they were offering models with various capabilities that soon became their standard business model. As recent as 2014, plans for a Smart TV were also announced. And, it followed through leading to the creation of a unique system that allows one to pause live content (albeit with the requirement of a 16GB USB hard drive). It also announced a program guide that helps one choose from programs available on local antenna broadcast TV. In fact, in January 2021, a Roku employee even went so far as to say that one out of every three smart TVs sold in the United States and Canada came with Roku’s system built-in.
Now, of course, such a successful brand does not come free of its share of problems. American pop culture and politics website The Daily Beast alleged that Roku eases content promoting conspiracy theories and terrorism. The charge was naturally denied but not before it generated a whole lot of discussion. Another blow came in 2017 when a Mexico City court judgment banned the sale of Roku products in the entire country citing copyright issues. Mexican mass media giant Televisa claimed that Roku devices were being misused to illegally stream television content without taking prior permission from the copyright holders. These devices used Roku’s private channel features to install these services. It was all against the terms of service the company applies for official channels in its store. Fortunately, the decision was soon overturned. Hence, Roku soon returned to Mexico with its streaming services again.
Roku streaming players continued to develop themselves gradually through different generations. Roku DVP N100, the first Roku model arrived in the market on May 20, 2008, developed with Netflix as a partner to serve as an independent set-top box for its newly provided “watch instantly” service. In comparison to bigger digital video recorders, the objective was to deliver a compact device at a reasonable price. It consists of an NXP PNX8935 video decoder which can support both standard and high definition format. It also consists of automatic software updates, high-definition multimedia interface output. Roku then introduced two new models in 2009, October, named the Roku SD and Roku HD-XR. Roku SD is more of a simplified version of the DVP. The earlier model whereas Roku HD-XR was equipped for the future with 802.11n WiFi and a USB port. Gradually Roku provided support for other devices and introduced a channel store from where apps for different services can be downloaded, including the facility of private services. Furthermore, Netflix support necessitated the use of a computer, since customers were required to add items to the “instant queue” via the web interface. Users could only access the service via Roku. However, the channel was upgraded in May 2010. The consumers got the facility of searching Netflix library from the device in a straightway. Roku then decided to include 1080p video support to the HD-XR and released a series of updated versions, for example, a new HD, the XD, with 1080 support, and the XDS that included optical audio, dual-band WiFi as well as a USB port.
The story of the first generation of Roku ended here. After a while, Roku appeared with its Second Generation of products in the market. They are named Roku 2HD, XD, and XS. Each of the Roku trio models consists of 802.11n, Microsoft SD slots, and Bluetooth. Both XD and XS supports 1080p and, the XS model only came with an Ethernet connector and USB port. The models also had compatibility with motion controllers. Besides, it has a Bluetooth remote known as the “Roku gaming remote.” The Roku LT arrived in October that is a basic model without Bluetooth and micro SD support. In January 2012, the streaming stick got uncurtained which a new model was compressed into a dongle form using Mobile High-Definition Link. In October, Roku came up with a new search feature by combining content from services usable on the device to all second-generation models.
The third generation of Roku appeared as Roku 2 and Roku 3. Roku 3 consists of a more developed CPU over the 2XS and a WiFi direct remote. It also has an inbuilt headphone jack. Likewise, the Roku 2 depends on the faster CPU. Roku 4 appeared in the market containing upgraded hardware which has 4K resolution video under its bag. It also had an 802.11ac which is wireless.
Fifth-generation models, low-end Roku express, Roku express +, high-end Roku premiere, Roku premiere+, and the top-of-the-line Roku ultra are completely re-structured and re-built. Though, the streaming stick remained as it is from the previous generation. Using HDR10, the Roku premiere+ and Roku ultra support the HDR video. The premiere and premiere plus models were eliminated from the sixth generation of Roku models, which debuted in October 2017.
A streaming stick with an improved WiFi antenna device has also been launched. Moreover, there were new processors for the Roku streaming stick, Roku express, and Roku express plus. In 2018, September Roku entered into its seventh generation. The Express (3900), express + (3910), streaming stick (3800), and streaming stick+ (3810). The ultra remains almost unchanged, except JBL premium headphones are provided. Further, they repackaged it with 4661 as a new model number. The model’s premiere and premiere+ made a comeback. But though their name remains the same as the previous models, the features hardly match.
The new premiere model is based on the express (3900) model with 4k support and also, in addition, has Roku streaming stick+ headphone edition (3811) for a much better WiFi signal strength and personal listening. In September 2019, Roku stepped into its eighth generation, when Netflix decided to deny support to the older generations of Roku. The models, Roku HD, HD-XR, SD, XD, and XDS was no more updated and hence were left behind. Roku launched its ninth generation of products on September 28, 2020. The Roku express 4K+ replaced the eighth-generation Roku express devices. The voice remote pro was upgraded to support other existing Roku players, and for all the newly developed Roku players came Roku OS 10. The tenth generation popped into our lives very recently that is on September 20, 2021.
The broker streaming stick 4k came up with Roku streaming stick 4K+ consists of an improved rechargeable Roku voice remote pro with the last remote finder. Roku ultra LT came back with a faster processor, stronger WiFi, Dolby vision along with built-in Ethernet support, and Bluetooth audio streaming. Roku OS 10.5 reappeared with several new and advanced features.
ROKU TV Roku came up with its first-ever smartTV towards the end of 2014. Companies like TCL, Westinghouse, and Hisense manufactured these TVs where the working head of the TVs is the Roku user interface. They also kept them updated like the other devices of Roku. The new models contain features accommodating over-the-air TV signals. It also includes a program guide providing information related to shows and films.
These programs are available on the antenna broadcast TV of the local area. Besides, they can also identify the location where they may access streaming material and the option to pause live television. In January of 2020, Roku made a badge to certify devices that were working with a Roku TV model. For example, some certified brands are TCL North America, Polk audio, Marantz, Definitive Technology. As per the words of one of the Roku executives in 2021, one out of three smart TVs in the US and Canada was built-in with Roku’s operating system, which can be considered a great progression for any company.
The software of Roku is Roku OS, which is a custom Linux distribution. Bug fixes, security updates, feature additions, and many developed interface revisions are parts of the software updates that this platform and its devices offer.
Roku also has its channels and service creation for Roku players. Roku partners generally provide the content on Roku devices. The users are free to add or remove different channels through the Roku channel store. The website does not specify all the channels that are available for free to its users. Roku also has its streaming channels on its own devices since October 2017.
Advortiléments supports it but is available for free to access to its users. Its contents consist of movies and TV shows from the studios. These include Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Warner Bros. From August 8, 2018, the Roku channel came on the web and also made a “featured free” section through which people can get access to shows and movies from its partners directly.
There is a feature for creating private channels that require the user to enter a code on the token website’s account page. The private channels apart from the Roku charnel stores are denied to be certified or reviewed by Roku. Though provided with restrictions, there is also a Native Developer Kit available.
Controversies aside, Roku has had a pretty decent though slowed growth in the last few years. If one looks at the latter half of 2020, it added a total of 1.5 million accounts compared to 2.5 million accounts in the previous. Anthony Wood acknowledges this and pins it partially on the COVID pandemic. But the said man continues to remain optimistic about the future. On a positive note, the company has recently taken a page out of Netflix’s book and launched its own Roku Originals, so all the new content that lies on the horizon remains to be seen.