Roku is looking to make its broadband set-top boxes more attractive to consumers ahead of upcoming Google TV products and a rumored new Apple TV device, by lowering its prices and adding 1080p video capability to its top-of-the line HD-XR model.
The price of Roku’s entry-level SD model has been reduced by $20, to $59.99, and the prices for its HD and HD-XR models have each had their prices cut by $30, to $69.99 and $99.99 respectively. Each of the devices has integrated Wi-Fi, but the SD model streams only via composite outputs, while the HD and HD-XR models have HDMI and composite outputs. The HD-XR also has dual-band Wi-Fi N support and a USB port for personal media viewing.
In addition to the lower prices, Roku said that it will add 1080p HD video support to its HD-XR models later this year through a software upgrade. While Roku’s content partners stream in 720p for the most part, the 1080p capability will be focused primarily on allowing users to stream personal media files in the highest-quality HD from the USB drive.
Roku is making the price cuts ahead of anew version of iTunes and an update to the Apple TV set-top product, which are expected to be announced at Apple’s (s AAPL) Sept. 1 press gathering. The new Apple product is rumored to be priced at $99 and be powered by iOS, the same operating system as Apple’s iPhone and iPad mobile products, and include flash memory rather than a hard drive for storage. In addition to the new set-top device, Apple is expected to introduce a new 99-cent price point for TV episode rentals.
Google (s GOOG) is also getting into the market for connected TV devices with its Google TV operating system, which integrates web and TV content into a single platform. Sony (s SNE) and Logitech (s LOGI) have already signed up to create consumer electronics device based on the Google TV operating system, but those products are expected to carry a significant premium in price, based on the cost of materials the platform requires to make it run.
In comparison, Roku hopes that the combination of low price plus existing content mix, including more than 40 apps from content providers like Netflix (s NFLX), Amazon (s AMZN) Video On Demand and Major League Baseball will appeal to value-conscious shoppers.
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