Is Roku the Next Settop Box?

Forget cable. Forget satellite. If you’re a movie lover, maybe all you need is a broadband connection and the Roku Digital Video Player. This is the $99 box that made waves when it was introduced as a gateway to the Netflix streaming video service. Then came news yesterday that you can purchase or rent movies from Amazon Video on Demand using just the Roku box.

Combined, these two services give you access to more than 50,000 movies, TV show episodes, and other video programming. You don’t need a Media Center PC, and the Roku doesn’t even need a hard drive. The Netflix content gets streamed to you whenever you want, and Amazon stores your movie purchase on their servers so you can watch them from anwhere you have access to the Internet. And of course, Amazon is selling the Roku player online if you want to get one.

I still believe that the Netflix “all you can eat” subscription approach is the winning strategy here, but adding the Amazon library means that you can gain access to a broader range of current movie titles on a pay-as-you-go rental basis, which will help tide people over until Netflix gets clearance from the studios to add more titles to their streaming service. And since the Roku box can do 720p HD output, I’d still hold off on shelling out for a Blu-ray player for now.