Roku is about to break free from set-top boxes, with the first “Roku TVs” from HiSense and TCL shipping next month.
Instead of requiring a separate box or streaming stick, Roku TVs have the company’s streaming video and music platform built-in. Roku boasts 1,500 streaming channels, with the ability to search across them all for movies and TV shows.
TCL’s four televisions run from 32 inches to 55 inches, with the largest model selling for $649 according to Engadget. HiSense hasn’t announced pricing, but will also have four televisions ranging from 40 inches to 55 inches.
All Roku TVs will include a 20-button Roku remote—supposedly designed for simplicity, with about half the buttons of a standard remote—and can be controlled through Roku’s iOS and Android apps as well. Roku is also throwing in two free months of Hulu Plus and $100 in other free trials.
Getting its software built into televisions is the next logical step for Roku, but gaining traction with major TV makers will be a challenge. Google tried to go that route years ago with Google TV, but few vendors were interested in replacing their own smart TV platforms. Those that adopted Google TV only did so on a small number of models.
Google is about to try again with a much simpler system called Android TV, and has commitments from Sony, Sharp and Phillips/TP Vision for their 2015 television lineups. That still leaves juggernauts Samsung, LG and Vizio, all of whom have invested heavily in their own platforms. Roku’s best bet for integration is with smaller TV makers who have fewer resources for smart TV development, which may explain why TCL and HiSense are its first partners.
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Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.