If you're old enough, you recall that VisiCalc was the PC's first killer app: a program that made the purchase a necessity rather than a “nice to have.” VisiCalc turned microcomputers from toys for hobbyists to tools for enthusiasts. Similarly, Lotus 1-2-3 forced many businesses to buy IBM PCs, because the spreadsheet only ran on that platform.
I think Roku may have found its killer app in its new, integrated search feature. Roku lets you search across Amazon Instant, Crackle, HBO GO , Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Vudu from within the Roku 2, Roku LT, the new Roku HD players, and the Roku Streaming Stick's display.
I know, I know; it's such a simple idea. That's exactly why it's so killer. We all want to watch our Internet TV programs, but it's a pain to find which shows are on which services. Sure, programs such as Dijit's NextGuide and Websites like Clicker can help you find what's showing on which Internet TV network, but those programs aren’t integrated with your Internet TV media streamer. With Roku, search is now built in.
Say, for example, if I want to find where I can watch Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS). NextGuide or Clicker help me find it on a tablet or my PC, but then I have to "tune-in" into the show on my media streaming device. Or, I could search for Star Trek:TOS on websites or use the various online video network, doing one search after another. This, as we all know, can really be annoying.
On a Roku, it's simple. Perform one search, and, faster than at Warp speed, you see that Star Trek:TOS is available on Amazon, Netflix, and Vudu. A click later and I'm looking at the series' first season episodes; one more click, and I'm watching my show. Now this is how Internet video searching should work!
It's not perfect. For example, I almost never watch anything from Vudu, but I can't tell Roku's search service not to bother to with it. You also have to deal with a hunt-and-click interface with your remote. I usually hate this interface style, but it worked surprisingly well with my Roku remote. It helps that Roku displays search results immediately as you click on each letter. For my Star Trek hunt, once I was past entering "Sta," I was almost to my goal.
But those are minor quibbles. Just as the TiVo made it easy to search and save TV shows from cable, satellites, and over-the-air, Roku has made it easy to find the shows you want on the Internet with a minimum of fuss and muss.