The latest innovation from Roku CEO Anthony Wood and his squad? After reducing the size of its players to a mere hockey puck, it has now managed to fit all the necessary hardware into this tiny dongle, that plugs into the HDMI port of MHL-compatible HDTVs. Mobile High-Definition Link ports, were intended for users to hook up their mobile phones simply for control and charging all-in-one, but also powers this unit which packs WiFi and all into one tiny package and can even be controlled by the TV's remote. Now, HDTV manufacturers can build TVs that function as dumb displays without it, but become smart TVs featuring the Roku experience we've become accustomed to just by plugging one in. The other benefit? No more obsolete smart TV hardware when the updates stop flowing. While Roku has a decent track record in this regard, if you ever need a more powerful unit, it's a lot simpler to swap out a simple dongle (expect a good/better/best pattern for functions like gaming, etc., following the player line) to add features than changing an entire HDTV.

Best Buy's Insignia-branded line is the first scheduled to take advantage with pack-ins when the stick debuts in the second half of the year, although it will work with TVs from other manufacturers (Samsung, Toshiba, etc.) that meet the spec, but we don't figure the big boys will be willing to sacrifice their existing smart TV platforms very quickly. We're told the price (it will be available both as a standalone and pack-in) should be in a similar range to current Roku players, which the company also announced it has shipped 2.5 million of to date. Check after the break for the press release and pics showing how it fits in an HDTV.

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Roku Breaks the Smart TV Mold

New Roku Streaming Stick Integrates "Smart" Experience into TVs Instantly

Saratoga, Calif. – Jan. 4, 2012 – Building on the success of the award-winning Roku streaming players, Roku® today unveiled a new solution to make a better Smart TV. The new Roku Streaming StickTM is a cordless device about the size of a standard USB flash drive that will plug into a TV to instantly transform it into a Smart TV. The Roku Streaming Stick will feature built-in WiFi, processor, memory and software to deliver Roku's growing collection of streaming entertainment. With these new Smart TVs, consumers will enjoy a fully integrated high-definition streaming experience.

"Insignia is proud to be among the first manufacturers to pair the Roku Streaming Stick with a TV," said Scott Jacobi, Director of Exclusive Brands at Best Buy. "The Roku Streaming Stick provides an elegant and easy over-the-top streaming solution for customers who want the full experience of a Smart TV without adding an external set box, HDMI cable and power adapter to their TV. Insignia looks forward to rolling out our first MHL-enabled TVs compatible with the Roku Streaming Stick in 2012 at Best Buy."

"Roku was the first to stream Netflix to the TV and since then has been applauded for delivering a first rate Netflix experience," said Greg Peters, vice president at Netflix. "Now Roku is taking streaming innovation to the next level and giving consumers a seamless Smart TV experience. The Roku Streaming Stick is a great solution for Netflix because it allows us to deliver the Netflix experience found on the Roku platform to potentially any TV."

Today's Smart TVs become outdated in just a couple years because as software changes are made the hardware needs upgrading – that is if the software is even updated. That kind of short hardware product cycle is expected with a mobile device such as a smart phone, but consumers generally keep their TVs for six to eight years. By moving the streaming platform to a stick that's easily replaceable, consumers no longer have to worry about their large-screen Smart TV becoming obsolete before its time.

"The Roku platform has been extremely successful as a stand-alone streaming device," said Roku Founder and CEO Anthony Wood. "Extending the Roku streaming experience through the Roku Streaming Stick to Smart TVs is a natural next step for the market."

"Smart TV manufacturers have struggled to find an application platform that sticks with consumers especially since software is not their area of expertise," said Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst at Parks Associates. "The Roku Streaming Stick is a game changer for the Smart TV market. It takes the leading streaming platform and integrates into the TV in a way that no one has been able to do The Roku Streaming Stick will not require any cables including a separate power source, and can be controlled by the TV remote. Like Roku players, it will deliver the more than 400 channels found on the Roku platform today and will benefit from regular, free software updates and channel enhancements.

The Roku Streaming Stick will be available this fall. It can be bundled with a TV in retail or sold separately for consumers to use with their own TVs.

The Roku Streaming Stick will plug into MHL-enabled HDMI ports on TVs. MHL is a new standard that uses the HDMI connector on TVs to deliver power and other critical elements for the streaming experience. MHL is currently adopted by nearly 100 hardware and manufacturing vendors including Nokia Corporation; Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.; Silicon Image, Inc.; Sony Corporation; and Toshiba Corporation who are joint founders of the MHL Consortium.

Roku is the leading streaming platform. Since launching the first Netflix streaming player in 2008, Roku has delivered entertainment to nearly 2.5 million streaming players in the U.S. Roku features more than 400 entertainment channels including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Angry Birds and HBO GO. Award-winning Roku streaming players are renowned for their ease of use, value and selection of content. Roku players are sold through leading retailers in the U.S. Roku is founded by Anthony Wood, inventor of the DVR. For more information about Roku, visit www.roku.com.

Roku and Roku Streaming Stick are trademarks or registered trademarks of Roku, Inc.

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Roku unveils Streaming Stick, squeezes box into MHL dongle