The Roku Player recently added Amazon Video on Demand. I've now tried it and can say it works as smoothly as the box's original Netflix streaming. But it can be cumbersome to find a title among the 40,000 available from Amazon. Roku feels our pain and will soon add a search function to enable users to pull out a specific movie or TV show.
That's just one of the changes coming to the Roku box in the coming months, says Tim Twerdahl, the company's VP of consumer products. The device maker is working with several other content providers and expects to start unveiling new partners this summer. Roku expects to add about 10 new "channels" by the holidays, turning its device into a wide-open conduit for delivering Internet entertainment to the TV.
The company announced the Amazon deal a couple of months ago and said it would be followed by others. Roku has quietly distributed a development kit to what Twerdahl calls a few "close, big-name" partners.
Those partners should go public this summer, about when the development kit should then be ready for wide distribution to other providers. "A lot of them are banging at the door, but we're still putting the polishing touches on it," he says.
All of those channels and content present a basic issue for Roku, which has won me over with its simple interface and remote.
Already, paging through the Amazon choices can be tedious. Amazon at least organized its offerings in folders, such as TV shows or movies, that are easy enough to navigate with Roku's remote. "Some people like to browse and see what catches their fancy," Twerdahl says. "But others know exactly what they want and need to find it quickly."
The search function will probably involve an onscreen keyboard, which can be awkward to use. Twerdahl says it could remember previous searches and auto complete words to ease the process. "It will be an evolution."
And among the challenges for Roku as quickly adds content. Ultimately, the device will have millions of choices to offer to viewers, Twerdahl says: "How to...keep it really simple will be at the forefront of what we do