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ReplayTV Founder Anthony Wood Launches Roku; Unveils World's First High-Definition Digital Media Player for Photos, Art, Music and More


Once again Anthony Wood is making television history -first with ReplayTV and now with Roku. Launched today, Roku is a consumer electronics company specializing in advanced digital media products that maximize the home entertainment experience. Bringing software development expertise to the consumer electronics world, Roku designs and builds sleek products that consumers can use intuitively, making digital media more enjoyable in all areas of the home.

Roku's initial product, the Roku(TM) HD1000, is the world's first high-definition digital media player. The Roku HD1000 connects to any HDTV and provides a high-resolution canvas for digital media such as photos, art, music and dynamic media applications. Roku also introduced a new concept today called LiveArt(TM), which brings motion to art, whether a field of vibrant orange poppies blowing in the wind or a rippling deep blue mountain lake.


"Roku's singular focus is to offer exceptional but convenient ways for consumers to enjoy digital media," Wood said. "The growing HDTV market has triggered a new wave of thinking that goes well beyond the capabilities of previous digital media products, providing Roku with the opportunity to address this untouched market."


HDTV owners are setting the standard for the living room as high-definition television becomes more commonplace. High-definition television is the highest resolution digital television format offering up to 10 times the resolution of standard analog television. The Roku HD1000 addresses the desires of HDTV owners with a high-end, stylish product that complements their investments in high-definition equipment. Unlike other digital media players, the Roku HD1000 is optimized for HDTV but can also connect to a standard television, providing an upgrade path for consumers who soon will purchase HDTVs.


Roku HD1000


The Roku HD1000 lets consumers see their favorite photographs and artwork in high-definition quality and share them easily with others. The Roku HD1000 also plays digital music, and can even play music while displaying photos and art.


Every aspect of the Roku HD1000 was designed with the consumer in mind. The Roku HD1000 takes CompactFlash, SD/MMC, Memory Stick, SmartMedia and XD memory cards for easy plug-and-play use. The Roku HD1000 also easily connects to any computer via built-in 10/100 Ethernet or wirelessly with a Wi-Fi adapter. The Roku HD1000 includes component, VGA, S-video and composite video out, for use with standard as well as high-definition TVs. Other connectors include component in, S-video in, composite in, RS-232, audio in and out, and digital audio out.


The Roku HD1000 is the only digital media player to not only support high-definition content and take content from both memory cards and a computer, but also opens the door to third-party developers. All Roku products have a Linux-kernel based operating system that has been enhanced for digital media applications. Though transparent to the consumer, the Roku OS allows third-party developers to build applications that enhance enjoyment of high-definition digital media players. A software developer's kit for the Roku OS will become available in the coming weeks.


Roku Art Packs(TM)


Roku Art Packs offer digital media collections on CompactFlash memory cards for easy plug-and-play viewing. Roku Art Packs available today include: Aquarium, The Classics, Nature and Clocks.


Pricing and Availability


The Roku HD1000 is priced at $499.99. Roku Art Packs are $69.99. The Roku HD1000 and Roku Art Packs can be ordered beginning today at rokulabs.com. Additionally, beginning in October, the Roku HD1000 and Roku Art Packs can be found on amazon.com and in consumer electronics stores nationwide including Magnolia Hi-Fi and Tweeter Home Entertainment Group locations such as all Tweeter, HiFi Buys, Sound Advice, Showcase Home Entertainment and Hillcrest High Fidelity.


About Roku


Roku is a privately held company located in Palo Alto, Calif., and founded by Anthony Wood, the inventor of the personal video recorder (PVR). Roku designs ultra-sleek digital media products that maximize the home entertainment experience. The Roku(TM) HD1000 is the world's first high-definition digital media player and delivers stunning photos, Live Art(TM), music and dynamic media applications to any HDTV. Based on an open platform, Roku's digital media products create new opportunities for developers to broaden the ways consumers enjoy home entertainment.


For a photo of the Roku HD1000, please send an email request to [email protected]
 

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I've been waiting for something like this..... looks like a great device.... any ideas on when they will start shipping them?
 

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Some things I noticed from their site:


- Linux based device, with API's available to extend its capabilities. They even encourage user extensions:


"Using the Roku OS, developers can quickly craft innovative and custom applications for the Roku HD1000 that take advantage of our TV-centric user interface elements, network and memory card access, MP3, MPEG, windowing system, graphics library, and other media engines. As well as the option to write C or C++ code with our SDK, custom installers can completely control the HD1000 without the SDK by using simple ASCII control commands over the serial or Ethernet ports. (C/C++ SDK available by the end of the year.)"


- Device allows HD pass-through. It has component video inputs. The output is either component or RGB/VGA.


- Built-in ethernet port, which supports SMB (windows file sharing). Should allow for easy integration into Windows/Linux/MacOS environment (rather than a proprietary server application like the GoVideo D2730).


- Ambient Light Sensor on unit. I wonder what this will do.. The unit has screen saver and art display capabilities, maybe they will adapt to the environment.



And, what I find most interesting:


- Full hardware MPEG2 [email protected] and [email protected] decode and MPEG1 decode; decode and display of all 18 DTV ATSC MPEG2 formats supported.


Can I use this to play the captures from my MyHD card? So I can be recording one program with my HTPC, while playing back another with this unit?? How about MiniDV captures stored on my Mac, either as iMovie projects or exported to MPEG2 or DVD VOBs??



If it can play back HD and DVD quality video over the network, I will probably get one.. The JPEG image playback and MP3 playback are not compelling enough for me. I can do that easily enough with my HTPC.
 

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Howdy guys,


To answer tjl's question really quickly, we do support playback of HD content over the network. Howver, in our 1.0 release, this feature was optimized for the "LiveArt" feature of the product. Consequently, we play MPEG2 transport streams with a video PID of 33 only.


We're hard at work on extending the player software to support a bunch more formats, so look for a follow-on release to come.
 

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justmike,


what resolution are the roku art pack images stored in? 1920x1080 (and then down-rezzed as needed), or various to optimize the hdtv output? (e.g., 1920x1080, 1280x720, etc.) the web site & spec pages didn't say (or else I missed it).


btw - very cool device! gotta pick me up one...
 

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Quote:
Consequently, we play MPEG2 transport streams with a video PID of 33 only.
Hi Mike -


I think that would be only my local ABC tower-cam. But it's nice you are working on it. ;)


Any chance of playback support for HDTV resolutions in say, MPEG-4, WM9, or H264 streams?


- Tom
 

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1) Will this device's firmware be user upgradeable? If so, how?


2) Will there be a new firmware release to support WMA music file formats? At what bit rate?


3) What is the maximum playback bit rate supported for MP3 files?


4) Is the Memory Stick slot listed for the Sony Memory Stick?


5) Does the Roku support discrete remote codes?
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by tji
How about Apple AAC format music files (music purchased from Apple's music store)?
Support of DRM is a little sticky in system that stores its media externally. The Audiotron just got a firmware upgrade supporting WM9 DRM, but to use it, some software must be running on the network somewhere from which the AT can checkout licenses and use of the file on the Audiotron counts as copying it to a portable device.
 

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Yes, the wonders of DRM.. limiting legitimate use of all my legally purchased music.


Mac's do have the ability to share music with local machines. I only have one Mac, so I don't know the details of this feature (I don't think Apple has published much information on their DRM either).
 

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This product would be of a lot more interest if it could also handle FLAC music streams. I would like to stick all my CDs on a media server (to get them out of the living room) but I do not want to compress them with a lossy algorithm. So, if I could compress them with the lossless FLAC and play them back using Roku then this would be quite interesting.


On a site note, I find the lack of an LCD screen on the Roku to be a missed opportunity. To play back music, I would prefer not to have to switch on the TV every time I want to select tracks/play lists.


I will not be buying one of these products yet, but it does look to be the closest commercial product to date, of a home network client that can display pictures, music and video/TV to a HDTV from a media server.


I say, roll on the software updates and third party enhancements...


This will be a product that I will keep my eye on.


Kerry
 

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Re FLAC and a display...


If there development environment pans out I would imagine adding FLAC and Ogg would be relatively simple.


The unit does have a USB port so it may be possible to add a small display that way.


The one thing that I think is missing is and IR in and possibly and IR out. It does have an RS-232 which is great but most users home automation doesn't involve a Crestron controller. I guess it might be possible to use the USB for IR in/out as well, it is just that it starts becoming more of a geek hobby item than a nice piece AV equipment (not that there is anything wrong with that! ;-)
 

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Here are some answers I received from Roku.


Question: Will this device's firmware be user upgradeable? If so, how?

Response: The upgrade process will be very customer friendly. Roku HD1000 customers will be able to download an upgrade file from our web site and copy it onto a CompactFlash card. Just insert the card in your HD1000 and reset the unit by holding the power button for a few seconds. The unit will upgrade to the new software and start right up.


Question: Will there be a new firmware release to support WMA music file formats? At what bit rate?

Response: This is a popular request and we plan on adding the file format for music in a future software release. The bit rate is unknown at this time.


Question: What is the maximum playback bit rate supported for MP3 files?

Response: 320kbps


Question: Can I view MPEG files from my hard drive over the Ethernet connection?

Response: Currently no. We do support standard and high definition video playback. However, in the initial software release 1.0 this is only used with our LiveArt T feature. We are currently supporting MPEG2 transport streams with a specific PID.


For information on our SDK please visit our developer section of our web site at http://www.rokulabs.com/developers/


Question: Is the Memory Stick slot listed for the Sony Memory Stick?

Response: This Memory Stick slot is designed for the Sony Memory Stick memory card.


Question: Does the Roku support discrete remote codes?

Response: Assuming that you mean for power on and power off, that

support will not be in our initial 1.0 software release. However, it is in the works for the next software release.
 

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anyone heard any more from roku?


it looks like the slipped their pre-order date back to October 31st, so they seem a bit behind...
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by brente
anyone heard any more from roku?


it looks like the slipped their pre-order date back to October 31st, so they seem a bit behind...
Actually, we haven't slipped anything, we've just extended the free-shipping offer. In fact, we've already started shipping orders.



FYI, I'll try and check this thread regularly, so feel free to post questions and I'll try and answer them.
 

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thx patrick. here's a question i posted earlier, but didn't get an answer to...


what resolution are the roku art pack images stored in? 1920x1080 (and then down-rezzed as needed), or various to optimize the hdtv output? (e.g., 1920x1080, 1280x720, etc.) the web site & spec pages didn't say (or else I missed it).
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by trancer23
could you please explain what pid 33 is and what it visually means ??
Visually it doesn't mean anything. A PID is just a way to identify a particular video or audio stream within an MPEG2 Transport stream. What it does mean is that for the 1.0 release, the only MPEG files that you can be certain it will play are those that are used for the LiveArt feature.

Quote:
Originally posted by brente
thx patrick. here's a question i posted earlier, but didn't get an answer to...


what resolution are the roku art pack images stored in? 1920x1080 (and then down-rezzed as needed), or various to optimize the hdtv output? (e.g., 1920x1080, 1280x720, etc.) the web site & spec pages didn't say (or else I missed it).
The ArtPack images are optimized for 720p. However, they look great at 1080i as well.
 

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What is the capacity of the unit?

For example, can it hold both the classics module and the

outdoor sceens (nature) at the same time?

Hummer
 
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