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Video: Roku Launches Channel Store with Facebook Photos, Pandora and More

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Roku vice president of marketing Chuck Seiber only gave us a teeny-tiny sneak-peek at the new Roku Channel Store at NewTeeVee Live couple weeks back, but the company officially launched the feature along with ten new free channels today.

Roku owners will now be able to get content on their big screen TV from: web shows (though NewTeeVee videos weren’t available yet when I searched)
Facebook photos: see yours and your friend’s pics on your TV, or use…
Flickr: for photos, if you prefer
FrameChannel: lets you view photos and updates from your social networks
MediaFly: web shows and podcasts
MobileTribe: another service to connect you to multiple social media sites
Motionbox: for personal video sharing
Pandora: lets you listen to Internet radio
Revision3: original web shows like Diggnation
TWiT.TV: Leo Laporte’s raft of tech-related content

Linking your Roku box to these services is snap, though you will need your computer on hand to enter the proper registration codes (see video embedded above for a demo).

Channels are easy to navigate and finding content within them was straightforward enough, but as we’ve brought up before, navigation is limited to just a left and right scroll, which can be a hassle. Search requires an on-screen keyboard, which is even more of a hassle.

Overall video quality was excellent, though it did look a little “streamy” sometimes, and there are lots of factors that determine quality on channels like blip and Motionbox where users upload their own videos. Speaking of which, I asked Roku why it has Motionbox but no YouTube (s GOOG) channel, which was widely expected to be available on Roku by now. Roku wouldn’t comment, but perhaps it has to do with the same Terms of Service issue that blocks set-top box company Popcorn Hour.

The Roku Channel Store is available on all three Roku models starting today. While they are a nice to have, we’re not sure how many people will be swayed by the inclusion of select podcasts and internet radio on their TV to buy a Roku (Boxee, another competitor in this space will reportedly unveil its CE device in January). And then there is the whole question of whether people will want dedicated set-top boxes when their TVs will soon have these types of channels already baked right in.

Regardless, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the Roku store. As we talked about with Seiber, Roku is opening up the platform so that just about anyone can create their own channel.

13 Responses to “Video: Roku Launches Channel Store with Facebook Photos, Pandora and More”

  1. The technology behind this is unclear. Does Roku implement custom applications for each service ..or do they get the service guys to deliver a web-page that is rendered by a browser sitting in the box?

    Methinks it is the former. And methinks this is bad. A web browser is a piece of software that renders all web-pages – a one-stop shop for all services. If players like Roku go about building specific apps per service, and if the services guys play along the same lines, then we are witnessing the birth of a new cable mafia – not the world of internet as it was designed to be.

    I can understand that services are not free, as long as they don’t use proprietary software to deliver access to them. Use a browser and get your customers to pay – just like you do on the PC. This will enable faster innovation by allowing competition on the side of the boxes and services, benefiting both the industry and the consumers in the long run. A closed system is a lock-in, which by definition, will grow/innovate in a limited space, if at all.

    Does Roku go for specific apps instead of a browser because boxes are resource-constrained and browsers are resource hungry? Even if this is true, it is not a sustainable argument. Heard of ChromeOS? Roku (and other such box biz guys) need to accept the world of open technologies, and build differentiators / business models on top. If not, they risk being left behind.