Roku users: second class citizens

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.


Roku has come out with a note on the Roku user forum about Netflix and HD quality:

  • Roku will be delivering Netflix in HD by the end of the year
  • Roku will be using Advanced Profile encodes which will deliver HD at substantially lower bit-rates than what Xbox is offering
  • The number of titles is up to Netflix but the library will be the same as or larger than the Xbox library
  • The UI will be updated to run in 720p and more covers will be visible on the screen at a time
  • And the release will include another major new feature that you’ll have to wait a bit longer to learn about

Though I was happy to hear that Netflix is finally rolling out HD content, I was astonished to read Netflix’s decision to roll it out for the brand new XBox, rather than the existing Roku users. Evidently, Netflix considers the early Netflix box users to be second class citizens, and would rather put its focus on the newer, shinier customer—the XBox user.

I had been recommending Roku boxes as a Christmas gift idea, but I can’t recommend the box any longer. Roku promised extra content, outside of Netflix, earlier thia summer, and has not delivered, yet. Roku also promised an SDK earlier this summer, and has not delivered it yet, either. Lastly, the company had promised that as soon as Netflix started streaming HD content, Roku would stream the HD content. As we can see, another promise undelivered, though this one does not seem to be Roku’s fault.

Considering that Netflix is an investor in Roku, one has to wonder what the heck is going on between these companies. In the meantime, promises are going undelivered. Until we’re given assurances that all of the earlier promises will be met, and that Netflix is still as committed to Roku users, as it is to every other box user, I can’t recommend the Roku.

Now, CNET is saying that everyone will get HD quality, but that the requirements are 8-10GB download speeds! (I’m assuming the author meant 8-10Mbps, not GB, but who knows…)

Netflix is calling this a “soft launch” since it is only rolling out such a small number of videos for HD streaming. The move mostly serves to stake a claim in the HD streaming market as opposed to being a full offering. Contrary to what others are reporting, HD streaming will be available on all streaming devices when it premieres with the New Xbox Experience. That means that the Roku, LG, and Samsung boxes will all be able to stream these HD movies, in addition to the Xbox 360. The PC and Mac based versions of Netflix, will not, however, be able to stream HD immediately. In addition, streaming in HD will require a large amount of bandwidth. Netflix estimates the requirement being in the 8-10 Gbps range.

Considering that 8-10Mbps exceeds the download speeds for a majority of broadband users, in addition to exceeding requirements for every other HD streaming server online, I have to wonder if this isn’t an error.

This whole thing has been badly managed. Press release by rumor rarely works well.

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