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They Must Have Some Fantastic Dirt on Somebody: Roku Raises $60 Million

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | May 30, 2013 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | May 30, 2013 |

Do any of you have a Roku? Because I know people who swear by Netflix, by Amazon streaming, by their TiVo’s … but I have never heard of a single person in the real world who actually owns a Roku, let alone has a positive opinion of them. And as we all know, the plural of anecdote is data, especially when absence of evidence is used as evidence of absence.

But some rich guys must be really really happy with their Rokus (or they have been presented with astonishingly high resolution photos of their last corporate retreat in Thailand), since investors just sunk $60 million into the company.

Roku plans to use the money in order to develop the technology to cram their streaming stuff right into televisions instead of bothering with set-top boxes at all. Which makes total sense, because the guys who shoehorned a VCR into the bottom of a thirteen inch television in the mid-nineties are like the richest and most successful entrepreneurs on the planet. Oh wait, no, those are the despised vestigial limbs of a previous generation, hanging swollen and useless underneath devices that otherwise still shoulder on. Or the $79 TV-DVD combos. Those were fantastic too. Especially since the DVD player had a tendency to break three days after the warranty ended.

And don’t give me that whole, yes, but non-cutting-edge users just want something that is cheap and works, and love it when it is already hooked up. Just plug it in and go!

Except that they’ve tried this before, repeatedly, in the higher end televisions. I’ve got a beautiful DLP big screen from Sharp, almost a decade old at this point. It has an internet browser built in, comes with an optional keyboard, is supposed to do all sorts of fancy stuff. I’ve never used that crap. I plugged in an ethernet cable once, it said there wasn’t one plugged in, and then I unplugged it and forgot about the entire thing in order to plug in my Xbox.

Hell, on the cheap end I’ve got a three year old little flatscreen. The manual and box insist that I plug the ethernet into the back and then can use both Hulu and Netflix. That experiment lasted about three minutes before I just plugged in an old desktop using the television as a monitor. Gosh, now streaming works.

The point is that this is a dead end, that their proposed world shaking business model already exists, and has already failed because there just isn’t a market there. If the tech guys who open up TiVos for fun to see if they can can copy the proprietary contents over to a larger drive to quadruple their recording capacity can’t manage to get the “just plug it in” stuff to work, it really has no future with the non-tech people.

If they wanted a higher return on their investment, I could be persuaded for a one percent finder’s fee to dig pits underneath abandoned warehouses down by the docks and just dump their cash in there.

(source: THR)

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.