Video service Roku cut prices by 23 to 30 percent across its WiFi set tops today, taking its most expensive device below $100 in the hopes of being perceived as the best value heading into the fall sales season. An e-mail describing the move referred to competitive products “both current and yet to be announced,” which covers everything from Boxee to Google (NSDQ: GOOG) TV and whatever Steve Jobs has up his sleeve with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) TV.
Roku offers three devices, all with WiFi: the SD, $59.99 after a 25 percent cut, is SD streaming only with composite outputs; the HD, $69.99 after a 30 percent cut, offers HD streaming via HDMI and component; and the high-end HD-XR, now $99.99 after a 23 percent drop, has plus dual-band WiFi N and a USB port.
Lowering the price now will make the comp charts look better as the new devices roll out but it also should give Roku a chance to focus on content, where it currently has one of the strongest offerings. Channels include MLB, NBA, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), Flixter, Pandora and UFC. Unfortunately for Roku, a lot of these services are strong believers in ubiquity so it is going to have to sell would-be buyers on the whole Roku experience — Roku as an easier and less expensive way than a computer or new TV to connect existing subscriptions and free content with your TV.
Also for the feature comps, Roku plans to add full 1080p support for its HD-XR later this year but that doesn’t mean a huge upgrade in viewing. Most of Roku’s content partners only go as high as 720p so the biggest advantage will be for users shooting their own HD footage and streaming it via the USB port.