Roku, the company that makes web-connected TV boxes, announced Wednesday night that it raised a $45 million investment round led by News Corporation, BSkyB, Menlo Ventures, and Globespan Capital Partners.
Roku’s devices let you stream content from popular services such as Hulu, Netflix, HBO GO, and Pandora to your TV. The company plans to release a “Streaming Stick” in the fall that packs all of Roku’s features into a device that’s slightly larger than a USB thumb drive. (It’ll plug into a special HDMI port in some TVs.)
In the announcement, Roku says it’ll use the new cash to market its products in other countries and develop new hardware.
Roku currently offers four different boxes that start as low as $50. The top-of-the-line model costs $100.
With two big-name media companies now backing Roku, it’s very likely the company will be able to get some exclusive content not found on other streaming devices.
Pop the champagne and up the bandwidth, because 2012 is the year we finally do away with discs. According to a Bloomberg report on IHS Screen Digest, more viewers will stream movies than watch them on disc, an inflection point that can only mean the relatively quick demise of high-density optical media. Streaming will increase to 3.4 billion titles this year, up from 1.4 billion. Blu-ray and DVD consumption will top out at 2.4 billion.
In a hilarious aside, the author of the IHS report, Dan Cryan, noted: “But the transition is likely to take time: almost nine years after the launch of the iTunes Store, CDs are still a vital part of the music business.” He clearly meant to write “of the music business in 2001.”
Arguably there are still plenty of people around the world buying DVDs and CDs but Blu-Ray is ready to hit a brick wall. Why invest in HD movies in optical form when you can get the same quality in a download on your newish smart TV or with a lower-end set-top box. The developing world is definitely still mostly optical, but as broadband speeds increase that could quickly change. Considering most big movies appear in digital form – legally or illegally – shortly after release, it definitely takes the bloom off the release window rose to pick up a DVD months after the movie closed.
The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a wrap. Tech’s largest trade show tends to kick off the year with a slew of new gadgets and provides a first glimpse into what will be hot in tech for the rest of the year. This year’s CES was no different.
We spent nearly a week talking with tech leaders, testing out products, visiting booths and attending press conferences in order to find out what devices, emerging trends and technologies to watch in 2011. A few trends clearly stood out at this year’s show.
From tablets to the influence of a certain company in Cupertino, here are five big consumer technology trends to watch.
1. Dual-Core Smartphones
This year will be the year smartphones take a major leap in power and functionality. More and more phones will come packed with HD screens, 4G connectivity, increased RAM and dual-core processors. The latter is especially important, because users are demanding more and more multitasking capabilities in their handheld devices.
Right now, the only dual-core devices on the market run Android, but you can expect Apple and the rest to launch their own dual-core phones later this year.
2. Android or Bust
CES was once again dominated by Google’s Android OS. The best devices at the show all ran on the Android platform. The biggest draw, the Motorola Xoom tablet, also showed off the upcoming Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” interface, made specifically for tablets.
Why have Samsung, Motorola, LG and many other electronics companies put their money on Google? Simple: It’s the only viable alternative to Apple, who would love to do nothing more than crush Android and CES. It’s an alliance of necessity if anybody is to gain traction against Apple’s growing power and profits.
3. Seeking the iPad Challenger
Thanks to the iPad, 2011 will be known as “The Year of the Tablet.” Microsoft, Samsung, Motorola, BlackBerry and more showed of! f their tablet devices at CES. The Samsung Sliding PC 7 is a Windows 7 tablet with a nice slide-out keyboard, while Toshiba showed off a yet-to-be-named 10.1-inch Android tablet. Oh, and let’s not forget about The BlackBerry PlayBook.
The winner of the CES tablet wars, though, was clearly the Motorola Xoom. With a 1GHz Tegra 2 dual-core processor, 10.1-inch screen, 1280×800 resolution, 4G connectivity, 32GB of on board memory and the Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” OS, the Xoom clearly outclassed its competition.
Does that make the Xoom a viable iPad competitor? We’ll have to wait and see how many of these devices people snatch up when March rolls around, but for now, it has the momentum, power and potential to give Apple a run for its money.
4. TVs Get Smart, But Will Consumers Care?
Sony, Samsung, Sharp and LG revealed new TVs this year, and every single one can connect to the web and run apps.
We saw a lot of connected TVs last year, but now they’re essentially standard. Almost every new TV you see from now on will be able to browse the web, connect to Netflix and more. And these TV manufacturers are even signing deals to bring content directly to the device, bypassing cable. Samsung has a deal with CBS, while Sony has penned one with Time Warner.
5. Apple Casts a Giant Shadow
One of the most talked about companies at CES wasn’t even there. Instead, it worked behind the scenes to undermine the show and steal the spotlight. And boy, did it succeed.
I am talking about none other than Apple, the world’s second most valuable company. Apple sees Android, which CES has embraced, as a threat and has worked every year to suck the oxygen from the room. Last year, Apple took over the show with fervent speculation about the iPad. This year, Apple did it twice with the the launch of the Mac App Store and the announcement of a press conference to reveal the Verizon iPhone.
It’s shocking that one company can be so powerful and influential that it can undermine technology’s largest trade show, but that’s exactly what Apple has been able to accomplish year after year. The game has become Apple vs. CES and iOS vs. Android.
More Tech Resources from Mashable:
– 5 Reasons Connected TV Could Flop in 2011
– 8 Tech Companies to Watch in 2011
– 8 Gadgets to Watch in 2011
– iPad 2 Rumors: The Comprehensive Guide
– HOW TO: Your Get Your Old PC Running Like New Again
Reviews: Android, Google, Internet, Windows, YouTube
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Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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