It's been a while since Roku updated its set top streaming boxes. Today its two highest-end models, the Roku 2 and 3, are getting a minor hardware revision, but it's the accompanying software upgrade that's adding some welcome new features. Firstly, the Roku 2 is getting the same processor and other internals as its big brother, while keeping its $70 price. The 3 remains unchanged on the inside, instead its big hardware addition is a microphone on the remote. Why a mic? Well one of the big new features of Roku's software is true voice search. A dedicated search button on the new remote quickly lets you find content by searching for actors, directors, titles and finally by channel. And if the on-screen keyboard isn't quite your speed, you can speak your query. And if you have an older or cheaper model, you can still take advantage of the new voice search through the updated mobile app.
The other big addition to the Roku world is the "feed," where you can track content and find updates about films you're interested in. The company clearly has big plans for this new feature, but it's starting small. First up is "Movies Coming Soon," where you'll find films that have recently hit theaters. By choosing to follow the titles you'll get updates when say The SpongeBob Movie first hits streaming and when its price drops. Eventually the company could add additional ways of tracking media. There might be alerts for when the latest season of Mad Men hits Netflix or when a new movie staring Sam Jackson lands on Amazon.
This may not be the big hardware upgrade some were hoping for, but it certainly adds some more value to the Roku platform. And building the best software is more important than ever now that the company is pushing into the realm of smart TVs and facing a renewed assault from Google.