Roku 2 adds games to net TV box

Roku, a tiny company next to its Silicon Valley neighbour Apple, has had to move fast to stay ahead and survive in the face of Apple TV – a set-top box that was revamped last year to challenge Roku’s own established product.

Where Roku had led with Netflix streaming and other internet content channels, competitors followed, and this makes the Roku 2, just announced, an interesting product in terms of showing where Apple and Roku’s other bigger rivals are likely to go in future.

Its key added feature is gaming - a new remote control doubles as a games controller with motion-sensing built in and Roku has struck a deal with the developer Rovio to feature Angry Birds at launch.

Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Seasons will be added soon after launch and the controller is rudimentary  and simple enough to use when I tried it to suggest the focus will be on casual games.

Roku has also changed its rather ugly rectangular box for an Apple-TV like square shape that is actually smaller and lighter than the Apple TV and consumes less than two watts of power.

It also includes a micro-SD memory slot and a USB port for added storage.

While everyone else now seems to have Netflix, Roku has improved its experience yet again with subtitles, Dolby Digital Plus audio and 1080p full HD now supported.

Apple TV added live sports in March with baseball and basketball, but Roku, which had basketball, hockey and mixed martial arts, is now adding Major League Soccer.

Roku’s other advantage over Apple TV remains price – it is keeping its $60-$80-$100 structure  for the respective HD, XD and XS brands, which are differentiated on features and connectivity. But at $40 cheaper than Apple TV, the Roku 2 HD will appeal most to price-conscious consumers.