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Roku beats Apple to the TV market

Ryan Faas | Jan. 7, 2014
If its Apple TV is ever to be more than a 'hobby,' Apple better get busy.

The advantages of deep integration
There a number of potential advantages to having deep integration with both the TV and content providers.

The most significant of these is the ability to control the entire user experience. When setting up or using any of Roku's existing devices or an Apple TV, you need to use the remote that came with the TV to navigate to the appropriate input. Although this is rarely a herculean task, there is a clear delineation between the experience of your TV's menu system, some of which are poorly designed and confusing. The user experience, however, doesn't always stop there. Other devices like cable boxes, DVRs, Blu-ray players and game consoles that users navigate on a regular basis each has its own interface making for a disjointed user experience from the get-go.

Apple prides itself on delivering clear, easy to navigate, unified experiences that entertain and "delight" users. This is so deeply embedded in Apple's culture that user experience goes beyond just the user interface and often includes a product's packaging, the buying experience at an Apple store and the setup process of a new device. That experience is easily compromised when there are half a dozen or more inputs and devices and interfaces. This has been described as the reason an Apple HDTV makes sense for the company and its customers. It's also clear that Roku recognizes the challenge, based on the blog post by Roku CEO Anthony Wood announcing Roku TV.

That simplicity also enables easier setup and troubleshooting. Often it can be challenging to determine whether a problem is caused by the TV, a connected device, the cables connecting them, or a misconfiguration by the user. As devices become more complex and people add more devices to a single TV, the setup process — and, if needed, the troubleshooting process —can become unwieldy. Building a service directly into the TV means a much clearer process for users, help desk agents or service technicians.

A better remote
One of the points Roku touts about its new TV initiative is a simplified remote control. Apple has already done that with its remotes, which can also be used to control content on a Mac or TV. Apple's remote has been pared down to just seven button. Both Roku and Apple also allow users to control devices with their smartphones or tablets, which can streamline functionality even more. The advantage when a service is built directly into the TV is that you only need one remote.

Another advantage is integration with traditional content providers like cable and satellite companies. Roku's Channel Store already includes streaming access to content providers such as Time Warner Cable, HBO Go and WatchESPN. They let customers access live broadcasts as well as streaming content on demand. With the right set of partnerships, this environment could obviate the need for set-top cable or satellite boxes. The effect, if not the exact technology involved, would be similar to devices like Tivo that use the cable card standard.


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