Roku Smart Stick: smallest 'set-top box' ever

Just six months after debuting its tiny 3" x 3" x 1" Roku 2 streaming set top box, over-the-top video company Roku on Wednesday announced it had gone even smaller, and put its entire streaming set top box into a package the size of a USB stick which connects to a TV's HDMI port and communicates using the new Mobile High Definition Link (MHL) interface standard.

The Roku Streaming Stick, as it is called, will require no separate power supply, and will be controlled by the television's own remote control. Televisions that support MHL will be able to integrate Roku's streaming TV platform simply by plugging in the stick. With the stick docked, it will be just like having the Roku set-top box: it adds the Roku interface (and the 400+ channels it offers), Wi-Fi connectivity, and local storage to the TV it is used on.

Best Buy has partnered with Roku, and the retailer's in-house Insignia brand will begin offering MHL-compatible TVs this year that will be packaged with the Roku Streaming Stick. MHL is still a new standard that doesn't have widespread support across the industry, but companies such as Toshiba, Sony, and Samsung all have televisions that support the standard, and there are almost 100 companies in the MHL Consortium.

One of the 10 things I genuinely want to see at CES 2012 next week is a company doing "Smart TV" right. As a Roku user myself, this is certainly an eye opener, but mostly to the progress of MHL as a standard that could help eliminate the need for external set-top-boxes.

MHL is now on my checklist of trends to look for on the CES showfloor this year.

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