Does an open source Roku change the content game?

Does an open source Roku change the content game?

Summary: At Streaming Media West TV executives described the task of getting Web streams from PCs to TVs as "really hard" but it isn't. Within minutes of hooking my own PC up, I had a YouTube comedy sketch full-screen on my HDTV. It was hilarious.


Roku from CNetRoku will release an open source version of its software by the end of the year. (Picture from CNET's Digital Media.)

The CEO says he's looking for deals with content providers to stream their products through his device, and hopes to sell a bunch of them as a result.

But doesn't that also mean that the old laptop I put next to my TV when its screen quit might become my next digital video recorder?

As a proprietary box Roku has gotten pretty good reviews. Its deal with Netflix is now non-exclusive.

At Streaming Media West TV executives described the task of getting Web streams from PCs to TVs as "really hard" but it isn't. Within minutes of hooking my own PC up, I had a YouTube comedy sketch full-screen on my HDTV. It was hilarious.

It wasn't great quality, but if you go to the source of what you want and click fullscreen the quality is much better.

In fact my kids spent this Christmas with their Uncle Bruce in San Jose, watching streamed versions of Dexter from the Showtime site while I watched an old Woody Allen show in the front room, using the same ISP account.

The world, in other words, has already changed. The only question is who gets paid, and how.

Despite all the efforts by the copyright industries and ISPs, consumers have more choices than ever. The cable "bandwidth caps" do not preclude you from downloading Letterman.

We can argue about whether, in terms of the Internet's architecture, it is better to stream content or run it through BitTorrent.

But if everyone can have a DVR and an Internet connection tied to their TV for very little money, has not the content game changed in a fundamental way?

Topics: Telcos, Browser, Hardware, Mobility, Open Source

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Not easy either

    While it's not necessarily "hard" to watch streaming
    web on your TV, I wouldn't call it easy or convenient

    First, if you have a desktop, you need it to either be
    close to your TV or run wires or buy an (expensive)
    media extender.

    If you're using a laptop, you need a place to put your
    laptop and you better hope it's new enough to have the
    correct outputs (or you need to buy a converter). I
    have S-video out.

    For me, it's a pain in the butt. I have a TV stand,
    with no room for my laptop. I need to put up a TV tray
    next to my TV to play my laptop on it and run an S-
    video to my TV (I only have one input, so I have to
    unplug my DVD player to plug in the laptop), then I
    have to connect my headphone out on my laptop to my
    sound system, because the laptop speakers aren't going
    to cut it. Next I need to fire stand there and fire up
    the video I want to watch on the web. Because I don't
    have a wireless mouse, I have to get up and walk over
    to the laptop and pick the next video to watch.

    With a media extender with a remote (like Roku), my
    life becomes 10x easier. I switch my TV input to where
    the Roku box is hooked up, then I pick the video I
    want to watch my my remote.

    I'm sorry, but I think my alternative (laptop) is a
    pain and it's why I don't watch as many Hulu videos as
    I'd like.
    • That is what I used to think

      My Visio HDTV set takes computer RGB input directly.
      No S-Video cables. Simple serial to serial connection.

      I have been very impressed with these Chinese-made and
      U.S.-marketed boxes from Visio. I now have two, one in
      my daughter's room and one in the living room. Both
      work well. They take a wide variety of inputs, the
      picture is finely adjustable, and they're relatively
  • Solve the problem with MythTV Server ...

    I have a MythTV server that has a video streaming plugin available to over 100 different sites plus a ton of streaming radio stations. If I want to view a site that's not listed, like, I just open Firefox directly from the MythTV Frontend so I can stream the video.

    You can also have multiple MythTV Frontends on your network with Windows, Mac, and Linux boxes to stream from the server. If you use a distro just for MythTV, such as Mythbuntu or MythDora, set up is pretty easy.

    I use Mythbuntu and have been pretty satisfied with the results. The only caveat is to make sure that your TV card hardware is supported before you install. BTW my card was supported in MythTV but not in Windows Media Center. ;)
  • open source what?

    Microsoft has two open source license so that term is pretty diluted.

    Is is too much trouble to ask how Roku will be released.
  • Its GPL.

    I read 5 articles and /. and no one even mentions under what license it will be released.

    Found it on their site:

    Roku, Inc. is committed to meeting the requirements of the open source licenses including the GNU General Public License (GPL) and will make all required source code available on its website.

    as well as this:

    This product is protected by certain intellectual property rights of Microsoft Corporation. Use or distribution of such technology outside of this product is prohibited without a license from Microsoft or an authorized Microsoft subsidiary.

    which is the equivalent of telling developers dont forget to wear your condom.