Category Archives: roku

Microsoft aiming ‘to be all things to all people’

windowsUnder new chief executive Satya Nadella, Microsoft is charging ahead with a “universal app” strategy – the idea that software developers can create an app once and then deliver it to each of the company’s devices, whether it’s PCs, tablets, phones or even Xbox consoles, without much additional work. This one-app-to-rule-them-all approach is how the company plans to overcome its disadvantage in phones and tablets, where it is way behind Apple and Google in terms of market share and total number of apps. A simplified and unified experience could indeed be the secret to luring developers away from its two rivals, both of whom run different operating systems depending on which devices they’re using.

I spoke with Windows Phone director Greg Sullivan last week at Microsoft’s annual Build conference in San Francisco about the plan and why it could work. I also sat down with Mary-Ellen Anderson from Microsoft Canada to get the local perspective. As vice-president of the developer and platform group, she’s in charge of recruiting companies and individuals to create apps for Windows devices here in the snowy north. With the company having success in securing the biggest app developers, its focus is now shifting to a more local level.

“We need to get the [apps] people care about in Canada,” Anderson said. “That’s a big, big deal for me.”

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Posted by on April 9, 2014 in amazon, apple, Google, microsoft, roku


Review: Roku Streaming Stick facing tough battles

roku-streaming-stickJust when the war for the living room couldn’t get any hotter, here comes Amazon with the Fire TV set-top box. No, it’s not a porn-delivery device – it’s Amazon’s answer to Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast, the company’s best foot forward into getting some of that lucrative living room entertainment pie.

Canadians aren’t likely to see the Fire TV any time soon. Tech companies often like to try out new products in the United States first before expanding internationally, but that’s even more so the case with much of what Amazon does. The company has been offering music downloads and video streaming down south for years and has yet expand them northward. With its set-top box predicated on such content, there’s no reason to believe Canada is a priority market for it.

There is another related battle unfolding here, however, and it involves sticks – media-streaming sticks, to be precise. It’s not a hockey game, but it could be just as bruising.

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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in Google, roku


Chromecast’s expansion raises streaming stakes

The new Google Chromecast dongle is pictured on an electronic screen as it is announced during a Google event at Dogpatch Studio in San FranciscoDon’t look now, but Google has beaten Roku’s Streaming Stick into Canada with the international expansion of Chromecast, its own streaming dongle for HDTVs. The device, which has been popular in the United States since its release there last year, became available in Canada for $39 through and Google Play as of Tuesday evening, as well as 10 additional countries.

Roku announced earlier this month it would be launching its device in both Canada and the United States in April but with Google getting past the post first, the battle to control the living room streaming experience is now most definitely on. The third participant in the fray is, of course, Apple, but more on that in a second.

In assessing the combatants, it’s hard to deny that Chromecast has a lot going for it. Like the Roku Streaming Stick, it’s tiny. The dongle plugs into a TV’s HDMI port and sucks power from its USB port, so it’s basically invisible behind the set. Alternatively, it can be powered via a regular electrical plug, but one of the great things about these sticks is that they can eliminate one cord from the nasty spaghetti mess found behind the typical home entertainment system. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 19, 2014 in apple, Google, netflix, roku, youtube


Roku Streaming Stick takes aim at TV wire mess

roku-stickOne of the downsides of the big gadget revolution of the past few years is television spaghetti, or that big mess of wires that many people have behind their home entertainment systems. With all the PVRs, game consoles and media-streaming set-top boxes out there, plenty of households are having to deal with this unseemly problem.

Fortunately, things are likely to improve over the next few years as TV sets gets more powerful and connected and more cloud services take off. PVR pioneer TiVo is just one of the big names looking to replace hardware-based recording with an internet-accessed service, while Sony is leading the charge toward cloud gaming with PlayStation Now, scheduled to launch in a few months. Some day in the not-too-distant future, both PVRs and game consoles – with all their attendant wires – will be a thing of the past.

Media-streaming devices such as Roku and Apple TV are likely to beat them to the punch, however. California-based Roku is indeed taking steps toward that wireless – or at least less-wired – destiny with its announcement Tuesday of a new stick-like streaming device that plugs directly into TVs. The Roku Streaming Stick, which resembles a USB thumb storage drive, will be available in Canada and the United States in April at $59 and $49, respectively.

Roku has had a similar device on the market since 2012, but this one is different in several respects. For one, it works with any high-definition television, whereas its predecessor was only compatible with so-called “Roku-ready” TVs. The new Stick plugs into any HDTV’s HDMI port, with an additional power plug going into the set’s USB port. Users who don’t want to clog up their USB port have the option of plugging the Stick into a regular electricity outlet for power, but that might defeat the whole idea of getting rid of excess wires.

Regardless of power option, the Stick gives American users access to Roku’s 1,200 apps or “channels,” as the company calls them, while Canadians get about 750. The device also comes with the basic remote control, which is similar to that included with the Roku 1 and Roku 2 streaming boxes, but which lacks the headphone jack or motion gaming control of the Roku 3.

The Streaming Stick is similar to Chromecast, the $35 Google device that also streams online apps and media to TVs. Roku’s price premium represents the extra value of having the remote control, while the Stick itself is an obvious answer to Google’s device, which has been wildly popular in the United States since its release last year. Canadians are still out of luck when it comes to Chromecast, meaning that Roku’s device may have a leg up here when it’s released.

The Streaming Stick isn’t Roku’s only effort to eliminate TV spaghetti. The company announced its own Roku TV at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, a collaboration with Chinese television makers Hisense and TCL that will see its streaming devices effectively built into the flat panels themselves.

Set-top streaming boxes are thus coming under pressure from both ends – from smaller, cheaper and more convenient USB-like dongles, and “smart” televisions with software and interfaces that are indeed smarter, as opposed to the dog’s breakfast that many of them have been so far.

The writing is on the wall for boxes, but their demise probably won’t happen overnight. “We think the external player is going to be around for many years,” says Lloyd Klarke, Roku’s director of product management. “There are still a bunch of TVs that need Rokus attached to them.”

Roku TVs are coming to the United States later this year, he added, with their arrival in Canada likely happening a few months after that. Still, it won’t be too long before at least a few wires can be trimmed away from that giant mess behind the TV.


Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Google, roku


CES gadget showcase: Roku TV

SAMSUNG CSCIt doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that media-streaming set-top boxes are an endangered species. With the advent of “smart,” app-running, internet-connected TVs a few years ago, the writing has been on the wall for the likes of Roku and Apple TV.

Rumours about Apple producing its own television reached fever pitch shortly after Steve Jobs’ passing, with the company founder telling his biographer that he had finally “cracked” television. Of course, it’s been a few years now and we’re still waiting.

Roku has beaten Apple to the punch by combining with a pair of lesser-known Chinese TV manufacturers – at least to North Americans – in the form of TCL and Hisense to indeed produce a pair of integrated smart TVs. After checking out a demo here at the Consumer Electronics Show, I got the sense that Roku TV may very well be the first smart television whose actual smart functions aren’t all that dumb. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 9, 2014 in apple, CES, roku


2013 blog in review: it was (almost) all telecom

Thanks for the clicks, Becel.

Thanks for the clicks, Becel.

What a year it was. 2013 was a year of ups and downs, both in the news world and for myself personally. Over the past few weeks, I’ve covered off some of the highlights and low-lights of the past year’s news events. Closer to home, my wife and I lost a beloved pet, but on the plus side we bought a house and I finally finished off my second book. Here’s hoping that 2014 has more upsides than downsides for everyone out there.

This coming year will also mark the five-year anniversary of this blog, which I launched back in 2009 as a promotional vehicle for my first book. Along the way, it morphed from into this site, with the focus also shifting dramatically when I dove into the freelance world three years ago. At first, most of my posts were devoted to developments in the three industries covered off in the book – military, fast food and pornography – but that ultimately expanded to all technology.

The early days seem funny now as a result, with my first few year-end summaries tending to turn up porn-related posts as the most-read of the year. Taking a look at this year’s most-read list is a good snapshot of just how distant those days are, with an entirely different topic – telecommunications – now overwhelmingly dominant.

10. How cellphone negotiations go in Canada (Jan. 14)

This one was a tongue-in-cheek conversation between a fictional customer looking to buy an iPhone and a wireless carrier service agent, but it was really a thinly veiled attempt to dissemble numerous industry talking points. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in blogging, media, roku, telecommunications


Roku 3: The king of media streaming devices

Roku-3Continuing along with this week’s Black Friday gadget special, today we look at the king of media streaming devices: the Roku 3. Yes, the Apple TV is arguably better for people who are deeply hooked into Apple’s various gadgets, but Roku’s flagship product is the best alternative for those who aren’t, or for those who are looking for a broader experience.

The Roku 3 beams a wide assortment of internet channels to your TV, from the quintessential – like MLB.TV and Netflix, which is the company that ultimately spun off Roku – to the obscure, such as Kids Recipes and Autism Live. All told, about 500 channels are available in Canada.

While smart TVs are quickly duplicating many of the same features that media streaming devices such as Roku deliver, the specialized gadgets still hold a few advantages. For one, Roku has tons more channels, with the only notable one lacking being YouTube. The other bonus is that the devices are quite inexpensive: in Canada the Roku 3 goes for $109, the Roku 2 for $89 and the Roku 1 for $69. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on November 26, 2013 in apple, roku