Roku3 Roku took a shot at Amazon’s Fire TV digital media adapter family on Monday by unveiling the “Roku Feed”, a new search and discovery system for favorite movies, added a new version of the Roku 3 player with voice search capability and supercharged the Roku 2 for speedier operation.

But Roku said nothing about adding 4K Ultra HDTV streaming capability to the new players, despite plans revealed by Roku spokesmen at January’s International CES to offer the capability in certain upcoming Roku TV models. Clearly, today’s focus was on bringing some updated changes to better compete with strong digital media adapter challengers including Amazon and Apple TV.

More on the Roku enhancements and upgraded players after the break:

By bringing some of the bells and whistles (voice control) found in Amazon’s Fire TV, as well as many smart TVs, to the Roku platform, Roku adds a state-of-the-art control technology message to an industry best (2,000 apps) streaming partner selection.

At the same time, Roku underscored that its content search system has always provided “unbiased” suggestions. Amazon’s Fire TV has been criticized by some for placing found content selections from Amazon Instant Video ahead of other streaming service providers.

Starting today, the company said the “Roku Feed” feature will allow consumers to follow the status of upcoming movies and TV programs by receiving automatic updates on pricing and availability as soon as they are available. The feature launches today with a focus on “Movies Coming Soon” to help users quickly determine when a box office hit will be available for streaming, which services will offer it and how much it will cost to rent or purchase.

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Roku has tweaked the Roku Search platform by adding the ability to search within the Roku Channel Store by streaming channel name to quickly find favorites like CBS News, HBO GO and Sling TV. The new Roku Feed tool maintains a lookout for favorite movies and TV programs, to quickly notify users when an item becomes available to stream and at what price. Roku is debuting the feature with “Movies Coming Soon,” which can be found under the ‘My Feed’ tab on the TV’s home screen. The tool lets viewers “Follow” popular in-theater movies they are interested in and Roku will deliver automatic updates as relevant information about the movie becomes available. Consumers will receive updates in the Roku Feed when a movie first becomes available from additional streaming channels and when prices change.

The new Roku 3 ($100 suggested retail, $84.99 on Amazon) now adds an enhanced remote control with a button to activate voice search, in addition to the headphone jack to enable private listening and motion control to play casual games found in earlier versions.

The new Roku 2 ($64.95 on Amazon) got a speed boost to match the performance of the new Roku 3, but uses a basic Roku remote. Essentially, the new Roku 2 becomes a previous Roku 3 (without the nicer remote). The audio and video output connection on both the Roku 2 and Roku 3 players is HDMI only.  A Roku spokesperson told HD Guru that the enhanced remote in the new Roku 3 “will work with the new Roku 3, the new Roku 2 and the previous Roku 3 model.” But at this point there are no plans to sell the new remote separately as an accessory. Meanwhile, Roku said it also included a free mobile app for Android devices (starting today) and iOS devices (starting later in the week) to provide control of the streaming player using mobile devices, including control of the newly announced search and discovery features.

By Greg Tarr

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