Roku Takes on Apple TV

This week, Roku, a company based in Saratoga, California, launched a new lineup of video players designed to stream high-definition content from Internet destinations such as Netflix, Amazon, and Pandora. The cost will be $60 for a basic player and $100 for one that offers a variety of ways to connect to other devices. Both are equipped for high-definition playback. Roku was one of the first companies to stream Internet content to televisions; it released its first video player in May 2008. Since then, the market for Internet-connected set-top boxes for televisions has become much more crowded. Competition is intense because, along with free shows and clips, the Internet can be used to deliver premium, cable-like content. An Internet-connected set-top box can also be used to deliver ads that are closely tailored to viewing habits. "People are zeroing in on the same answer from multiple directions," says David Krall, Roku's president. Roku has about 700,000 users--far fewer than the number of Apple iTunes users out there--but the company hopes to attract users by offering lower-cost hardware and high performance.

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