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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Has anyone seen this? This has some serious potential for me, given the HD capabilities for photos.


Anyone have any idea what the streaming music performance/interface is like?


thanks.
 

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This story was posted on Yahoo today.



ReplayTV Inventors Aim at Living Rooms

Mon Sep 22, 7:12 AM ET


By MAY WONG, AP Technology Writer


PALO ALTO, Calif. - They have no receptionist and only paper name signs taped to their office doors, but the 20 employees working out of a nondescript building on a leafy, quiet street here are ready to challenge tech giants in the digital media market.


Led by the man who helped spark a revolution in television by creating ReplayTV (news - web sites), the first digital video recorder, the startup Roku is developing products to make the living room, and not the PC, the showcase for all digital content, from photos to music.



Roku founder and chief executive Anthony Wood knows big-name companies, such as Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., are already attempting to do the same with so-called media servers or media receivers — devices that allow users to take content stored on their computers and play it on their televisions or stereos.



None of those kinds of products have taken off yet, and the ambitious but soft-spoken 37-year-old serial entrepreneur thinks his latest company can do better.



After a year in secret development, Roku unveils its business and launches its first product Monday, the Roku HD1000.



It's the first digital media player to be designed for high-definition televisions, which are gaining in popularity as prices drop.



The HD1000 can play slideshows, video or music files from its four built-in memory card slots, or play files streamed from a computer via an Ethernet network connection.



"By trying to establish a beachhead in a large, but rapidly growing market, we could own it, because there's no competition today," Wood said during an interview in his office, sparsely decorated with memorabilia from his past startups. "It's called getting in early on a trend."



With a price tag of $499, Roku is targeting the high-end consumer, those already spending $3,000 or more on an HDTV set.



In the United States, about 2.5 million digital TV sets — most were HDTV-equipped — were sold last year. That sales figure should double by 2004, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.



"The Roku product is a smart play for the early adopters," said Larry Gerbrandt, senior analyst of the Kagan World Media Group. "This opens up a world of functionality for HDTVs."



Gerbrandt and other industry analysts think Roku could successfully hit a niche market. Whether it could succeed beyond that is up for debate, but Wood's track record of creating cutting-edge products bodes well for Roku.



"Anthony Woods has introduced the right products at the right time, and it looks like he's doing it again with Roku," said Sean Badding, an analyst with The Carmel Group.



Wood named the company Roku because it is his sixth company, and the word means six in Japanese.



Wood's entrepreneurial days started in high school in 1983, when he formed Aw Software, selling text-based adventure games and an online bulletin-like program he wrote for TRS-80 computers. The teenage Wood netted about $1,200.



Three years later, while at Texas A&M University, Wood started SunRize, selling sound digitizer products for Amiga computers. He raked in $100,000 and bought a used Porsche before quitting the business to finish his electrical engineering degree.



After graduating, he moved to Silicon Valley in 1990 and reincarnated the company as Sunrize Industries, a supplier of digital audio editing products that annually earned more than $1 million.


In 1995, as the Internet was taking off, Wood founded iBand Inc., which developed the popular Web-authoring tool Dreamweaver. Wood sold iBand to Macromedia for $36 million, and served as Macromedia's vice president of Internet authoring before starting ReplayTV in 1997.


The idea for ReplayTV stemmed from Wood's frustration with repeatedly missing Star Trek episodes. He came up with the digital video recorder, or DVR, which allows users to record shows onto a hard disk drive, and pause or fast-forward live television.


ReplayTV, Wood's best known company yet, beat rival TiVo (news - web sites) Inc. by a few months to debut its DVR in 1999.


Wood later sold ReplayTV to SONICblue Inc. for $125 million in 2001. During his one-year stint at SONICblue, Wood oversaw the development of the ReplayTV models that featured automatic skipping of television ads and the ability to send recorded programming over the Internet — features that landed SONICblue in court against Hollywood.


Crushed by the legal costs and mounting debt, SONICblue sold its jewels in a bankruptcy auction in April. ReplayTV and its Rio audio player line went for $36.2 million to D&M Holdings Inc., the parent of the Denon and Marantz home electronics brands.


D&M had outbid Wood's $17 million offer for his old company.


As ReplayTV and TiVo continued to battle growing competition from larger rivals and cable operators building DVR functions into their set-top boxes, Wood said he could not stay on the sidelines.


"I'm not doing it for the money, but I really enjoy building things," Wood said. "There's so much opportunity in the shift to digital media, and I don't think the products out there are being done well."


The Roku HD1000 is based on an open Linux (news - web sites)-based platform, which Wood hopes will encourage third-party developers to build applications for it. To start, Roku is also selling $69 memory cards filled with classic paintings, nature and aquarium images, turning the HDTV set into an art canvas.


Roku also seeks to license its software to other set-top box and television makers.


The company would break even by selling 10,000 units, but hopes to become profitable by selling at least 20,000 units within a year, Wood said.


More products are planned. Wood would not divulge too many details, but he said a future product will include a hard disk drive with DVR capabilities.


Of course.
 

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This is the first gizmo of its type to get me excited since the venerable Audiotron came out many moons ago. The features that have me interested in the Roku include:
  • Digital S/PDIF Coax (woo hoo! finally someone besides Turtle Beach "gets it" that this is a desireable feature)
  • Component Y/Pr/Pb: 1080i, 720p, 480p, 480i; and VGA: 1080i, 720p, 480p with video pass-through for all formats
  • Memory Card Slots: CompactFlash,SD/MMC, Memory Stick, SmartMedia (I have gizmos using three of these formats, so this is a real nice feature)
  • A pretty nice GUI

Of course impressive on a manufacturer's website is one thing, and impressive in actual use is a whole 'nother ball of wax. I'd be real curious to see how fast the GUI responds, how intuitive it is, etc. Any real-world reviewers out there?
 

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i don't see album cover, but you know, i am beginning to find that after the wow factor fades, you really don't need to have album cover art.


looks like a sweet machine. darn this hobby is going to bankrupt me.
 

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Hi guys!


No album cover art in the first version, but we're planning on enhancing all of the product's features with software updates as time progresses.


We should have units on display in retail outlets in the coming weeks. Check the web site for details.
 

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This sounds really cool..... It sounds like it can pretty much do what the audiotron can and then some. I just might be picking this one up instead of holding out for the new audiotrons. (getting tired of waiting for the anouncement and tired of the no-ack's on the TB website).


Where will you be able to purchase these units at??? I see you can get them from you website, but what stores should be carring them???


Thanks

R~


>>>After reading more and more about it, this thing has me drooling
 

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I agree jgitz. I've been waiting for a better mouse trap than my Compaq Music Center, and the Audotron... this has the beginings of a great unit.


A few additional questions for Replay Mike...


Discrete Codes - If so, just on/off or for the modes (audio, video, pictures)as well?


What Audio formats are supported? PLEASE add a lossless format - APE, SHN, FLAC, etc...


Does it do audio lookups (CDDB), or only if it's embedded in the MP3?


Cover art - this is a must have. Also, provide the capability for the "screen saver" to display a floating album cover, as well as current artist and song info.


Playlists - does it support?


What kind of organization for music - Genre, etc... can you create your own groups?


cjett
 

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JustMike,


How does the user update the Roku firmware? Is it completely automatic if there is a broadband connection? I had Audiotron for a while but wanted to use my HDTV to display the growing library of digital photos and Roku fits the bill. I just hope their support is as good as or better(?) than TB support.


I agree with cjett on the discrete codes on power and main modes so I can use the Pronto.
 

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It's manual is here . After perusing it, I made this comment in the HDTV Recorders forum:
Quote:
Well, it's interesting, but unless you're really into browsing photos on your HDTV, or displaying decorative artwork on your HDTV while you're not using it for something else, not a lot of use, IMHO. It's a pathetic music player, given it's incredibly anemic "browser". It just offers you a flat list of files, and although you can organize the files in directory hierarchies to make searching easier, it doesn't let you browse the tags or sort the information by tags for you; you can't say "give me a list of all the artists whose music I have" or "give me a list of all of the album titles" or "give me a list of genres I have music in" and then navigate hierarchically from there down (all of the albums for a particular artist or all of the tracks for a particular album, etc). I have 4500 tracks ripped from over 400 albums by dozens of different artists on my PC--it'd be a nightmare navigating my collection using this. I also see no suggestion of support for stored playlists. (I ripped my CD collection to files on disk primarily to download them into my Nomad Jukebox Zen, but ended up buying an Audiotron--which I love--to play them over my wireless LAN in my living room).


Like I said, it's interesting, but I got no use for it. With so many televisions coming out with memory card slots from which to view photos, it needs to learn some new tricks quick.
 

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The digital output was a good call, and the photo and art capabilities are neat, but I won't be ditching my Audiotron for the Roku. It seems to be lacking a few key features:


First, the website lists only "MP3" under Audio Format Support. I really hope that is not the case, I would expect support for .wav files at a minimum, and would hope for lossless support, especially Monkey's Audio (.ape). I am in the process of ripping my entire CD collection to .wav files (on 400GB of storage), and have no intention of converting them all to a lossy format like mp3. Especially with storage getting cheaper every day; we'll have terabytes on our keychains before too long, and lossy formats will simply become unnecessary.


Also, it appears the user interface can only be accessed via the TV display. I would also want a web-based interface that can be accessed via the network. With the Audiotron's built-in web server (or using 3rd party apps), I can control the music from any computer in my house (or even while sitting on my screened porch via a wireless PDA). Control of the Audiotron via the network is a bit slow (the Audiotron's biggest fault), but I wouldn't consider upgrading to a new digital media player until I can have similar remote access and control.
 

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Quote:
First, the website lists only "MP3" under Audio Format Support. I really hope that is not the case, I would expect support for .wav files at a minimum, and would hope for lossless support, especially Monkey's Audio (.ape). I am in the process of ripping my entire CD collection to .wav files (on 400GB of storage), and have no intention of converting them all to a lossy format like mp3. Especially with storage getting cheaper every day; we'll have terabytes on our keychains before too long, and lossy formats will simply become unnecessary.
Agreed (except for the .wav part as tagging .wav files sucks). MP3 is so late-nineties. ;)


Seriously though, any new device in this price range that only offers mp3, ogg, & wma isn't worth my consideration. I expect a $400 device to play whatever I throw at it.
 

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Name one piece of hardware which plays whatever you throw at it. What commercially available devices have embedded ape and ogg decoders? (I've heard that there is something out there now with an ogg codec though).


I work on embedded systems (in mobile phones--my world has been all about graphic decoders recently). Many codecs have licensing fees, and even the free ones are going to cost you something to incorporate into your product and if there are released bugs, someone will find them and expect you to spend money fixing them. Supporting a feature that's going to be used by .001% of your potential customer base is bad business.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by SiliGoose
Seriously though, any new device in this price range that only offers mp3, ogg, & wma isn't worth my consideration. I expect a $400 device to play whatever I throw at it.
I think that devices coming to market now should support at least the following formats:


1. MP3

2. WMA - including lossless and DRM

3. AAC

4. WAV


The fringe formats like ogg, flac, etc. will not likely be supported by mass produced consumer electronic products even though they may be superior to the formats listed above.


Jay
 

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ReplayMike or JustMike ....Why does it not do video????


Heck, my Slimp3 does what I need that this offers (listen to music)

I don't need a TV to select music and play it




michaeltscott:


Take a look at JoyFaktory....it will play all types of files.

No clue how good or anything, don't want to spend 700 bucks to find

out that a company can't produce it, but they claim it is shipping.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by jerndl
I think that devices coming to market now should support at least the following formats:


1. MP3

2. WMA - including lossless and DRM

3. AAC

4. WAV
I agree with that list. The reason that you haven't see more AAC is that Fraunhofer has wanted a few pounds of flesh for licensing. I think that they may be coming down, these years after introduction. MP3, WMA w/DRM and WAV are common today--I don't think lossless WMA is, but it's pretty new, so I'd expect new devices to support it.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by holthaus
Take a look at JoyFaktory....it will play all types of files.

No clue how good or anything, don't want to spend 700 bucks to find

out that a company can't produce it, but they claim it is shipping.
I took a look ( here ). Impressive specs (over 40 codecs!). Too bad that they took the server software route--I like my Audiotron's simple SMB share mounting scheme.


I still say that this will prove to be a support nightmare. The first principle of engineering: "Keep It Simple, Stupid" (aka "the KISS principle").
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by SiliGoose
Seriously though, any new device in this price range that only offers mp3, ogg, & wma isn't worth my consideration. I expect a $400 device to play whatever I throw at it.
I suppose it would be nice to have a few more formats supported. But is it really necessary? Or even terribly useful? How many formats are really required? IMHO, I'd use exactly one. I.e., whichever format I used to rip all of my CDs to my HDD, which at the moment happens to be 320 bit MP3. Isn't it more important that the unit handle one or more high-quality sound formats than that it supports all of the encoders-du-jour?


Consider the target audience of the Roku player. Buying a relatively expensive player with HDTV support is overkill unless you're planning to attach it to a nice A/V system and playing back music of high quality. IMHO, if you want high quality music, you're probably considering:


(1) Uncompressed lossless. In that case the player needs to support WAV, because it's the no-brainer lossless file supported by everyone.

(2) Compressed lossless, implying that the player should support APE and/or WMA.

(3) High-quality, commonly-supported lossy compression. To that end, support for MP3 is needed because it's a pervasive standard, because it's cheap, and because 320 bit MP3's sound pretty darn good. Regular WMA files should be supported for the same reasons. And because both are supported by the nascent legitimate music downloading sites.


This is the question that mystifies me the most (and on which I particularly encourage others to respond): with 100 GB HDDs available for $79 that have the ability to hold 10,000 MP3 files recorded in 320 bits using EAC + LAME, what is the purpose of recording music that is intended for playback over your home A/V system in any other way? And hence, of what purpose the debate over support of other formats primarily designed to improve the listening experience at low bitrates? Or, to put it differently, why would support for all these extra encoders improve the listening experience?
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by jerndl
I think that devices coming to market now should support at least the following formats:


1. MP3

2. WMA - including lossless and DRM

3. AAC

4. WAV


The fringe formats like ogg, flac, etc. will not likely be supported by mass produced consumer electronic products even though they may be superior to the formats listed above.


Jay
I think that Real Audio is also a necessary codec -- if only because of all the streaming Real Audio online broacasters. I don't think it is a fringe format.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I guess my main question, and I'd love to hear something from Mike on this, is how well the music streaming portion of this device will work? It's being advertised and hyped mainly for its HD JPEG capabilities, with audio streaming being a secondary, lesser function. Can we expect all the basic capabilities of an average streamer like say a Rio Receiver, but with the reliability and solid functionality that ReplayTV is known for?


Damn, I wish Audiotron would get their act together and announce/release a unit with video out.
 
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