Roku 3 vs. AppleTV

Roku 3 (image provided by Roku)
Roku 3 (image provided by Roku)

I just got spammed by Roku (we owned a second-generation — I think — Roku, which we hardly used and eventually gave away, so I guess they have my email address). I’m not really in the market for a Roku since it doesn’t let me watch iTunes content (in which we have a significant investment) and AppleTV lets me watch pretty much everything I’d watch on a Roku, but it is interesting to see Roku out in front of AppleTV in significant ways.

  • Remote control has a headphone jack. This is a huge missed opportunity for Apple, especially since many Apple “remotes” (i.e. iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads) already have wireless connections and headphone jacks. (Incidentally, some kind of fine-tuning of lipsync would probably be a good idea.) If you go back to my broken hub post, this kind of falls under the question why A can’t stream audio/video to or remotely control B for any A and B where-ever it would make sense in the Apple universe? It didn’t occur to me that AppleTV’s should be able to stream audio to other devices, but they should.
  • Search is federated. The company that built fast, federated search into its operating system still won’t let you search for a movie across content silos — I need to search for Phineas & Ferb in iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix separately. Again, it’s worse than that because Apple doesn’t build enough of the AppleTV software into its remote — I should be able to do content searches on my iPad and then simply tell my AppleTV to jump straight to a result rather than use my iPad to painfully generate a query on my AppleTV.
  • It also looks like Roku’s remote control apps are smarter — i.e. more smarts in the app rather than simply emulating a crappy remote control.
  • Roku also seems to be stressing how fast the new device performs. (Given Tivo’s ever-more-torpid UI and AppleTV’s overally network-dependent performance, this is no minor thing.)

If I were to provide a wish list for AppleTV, a lot of the items have already been addressed by the new Roku. (I assume that, given HBOGO now streams to AppleTV that an app for AppleTV is in the works.) Here’s hoping that AppleTV is about to get some serious love.