All the right moves: Roku's Netflix streamer branches out

One of the major attractions of the Netflix Instant streaming service is its low cost of entry. For $9 a month, subscribers have access to a substantial and ever-growing library of content on their PC, available whenever they have a connection and some time to spare. And if a subscriber wanted to view that content on his HDTV, he can do so through game consoles, DVRs, connected optical media players, and of course, through the branded Netflix player by Roku which debuted in spring 2008.

The $99 streaming device certainly proved to be a breakout hit for Roku, providing the simplest, cheapest, and most elegant way to access Netflix Instant in the living room.

However, time is running its course. As Netflix Instant streaming finds its way onto more devices, and the prices of components drops, Roku is facing stronger competition from other manufacturers in the sector. Just last week, for example, Best Buy announced the connected Blu-ray players from its budget electronics brand Insignia would be getting Neflix Instant streaming. For Roku to stay competitive, it has to get cheaper, or pile on some new features.

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The company is doing both.

Today, Roku announced it is branching out its line of streaming media players to include a cheaper model that only has standard definition output (Roku SD -- $79) and a more expensive player that has dual-band 802.11n compatible wireless (Roku HD-XR -- $129.)

On the content side of things, Roku said it will be launching the "Roku Channel Store" later this fall, which will let users select new content channels for their device, from providers such as Revision3 (which its CEO Jim Louderback announced earlier this month), Mediafly, Pandora, and Flickr. At Blogworld earlier this month, Brian Jacquet of Roku said there were "about half a dozen" other Roku development partners which will be announced in the coming weeks.

There was discussion of YouTube integration before Amazon on Demand launched earlier this year, but it is not known whether there will be a YouTube channel available for installation when the Roku Channel arrives in the coming weeks.

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