The Netflix Player by Roku is the latest Netflix-compatible device to offer HD video support. The free firmware upgrade (version 1.5) adds the ability to access the approximately 300 or so titles in Netflix's streaming library that are currently available in high-definition. The upgrade brings the Roku box up to speed with the Xbox 360, TiVo HD DVRs, and Samsung BD-P2500 and BD-P2550 Blu-ray players, all of which have been upgraded to support Netflix HD streams over the past few weeks. (The remaining device, the LG BD300 Blu-ray player, should be getting its own HD firmware upgrade soon.)
In addition to the HD upgrade, the Roku box is also teasing the eventual availability of new non-Netflix programming. Clicking the "what's new" button on the updated home screen reveals a message that says:
This screen will become your launching pad for a number of great new channels that will begin to appear on your player in early 2009. In addition to the hugely popular Netflix channel, you'll see new movie channels, TV channels, Web video channels and more.
We've been hearing that the Roku box wanted to broaden its horizons since at least September, so the imminent arrival of new content options isn't exactly a surprise. And with more people looking to dump expensive cable and satellite subscriptions, a $99 set-top box with on-demand video options is certainly an attractive idea. It also probably means that the hardware--currently called "The Netflix Player by Roku"--may need to get a new name when the company eventually flips the switch on those new channels.
Besides Netflix, what sort of channels would you like to see on the updated Roku box? Share your suggestions below.