Roku's Streaming Stick shrinks the Roku box into a dongle
Roku announced the Streaming Stick this morning, which essentially squeezes all the functionality of a typical Roku box (including Wi-Fi, processor, and memory) into a a device that looks like a USB flash drive. It doesn't require an additional power cable or a separate remote, instead allowing you to use your TV's standard remote to navigate Roku's software. Roku's platform currently supports over 400 channels, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, Pandora, MLB.TV, HBO Go, MOG, and Rdio.
Roku sees the Streaming Stick as an alternative to individual manufacturer's Smart TV portals, which quickly become out of date and rarely receive updates a year after they're released. Not only is it more likely the Streaming Stick will be updated more frequently, but it's also a lot more affordable to swap in a new, improved Streaming Stick if the current hardware becomes outdated.
The big catch of the Streaming Stick is that it requires an MHL port, which is a relatively new connection type supported by only a few HDTVs. That could quickly change over the next week, however, as manufacturers roll out their new lines of HDTVs atCES 2012. There are also MHL-to-HDMI adapters available, although they require power, which considerably cuts down on the Streaming Stick's simplicity. (At that point, you may want to consider an actual box.)
The Roku Streaming Stick won't available until the fall and there's no pricing yet, although Roku told us it will be between $50 and $100. Best Buy's house brand Insignia will be one of the initial partners, although the Streaming Stick will work with any HDTV with an MHL port.