Roku Shares Jump On News Of Voice Assistant Rollout, Licensing Expansion

Pablo Tucker
January 12, 2018

The initial segment of the news includes smart speakers: Roku will put out reference outlines for both soundbars and WiFi-associated speakers, with the expectations that manufacturers will begin making stuff that will interface straightforwardly to Roku TVs and take into consideration voice control of Roku TV applications. TCL, one of the first companies to offer Roku TVs, is coming onboard as the first Roku Connect licensee, and Roku says it will unveil its first product at CES-the mammoth electronics trade show-in Las Vegas next week. The assistant will enable users to use voice commands to play music, TV shows and movies on voice-supported Roku devices. It will roll out as a software update for existing operating systems this fall. Roku is setting that up for single-room and multi-room audio set-ups and a way for those speakers to connect and integrate with Roku TVs and Roku streaming players. They smarten up your TV and let you stream from pretty much every service imaginable - without any of the pathetic squabbling that comes with Amazon's Fire TV or Google Chromecast.

The extension of the Roku environment, including voice control, is undoubtedly being watched closely by pay TV operators, including Comcast, that are trying to develop comprehensive, whole home voice-controlled solutions like X1 to distance themselves from over-the-top competitors like Roku. Roku also makes it clear the licensing Roku Connect software will be free for OEM partners, and will not be taking licensing revenue from smart speakers of soundbars "in the foreseeable future".

The company said its third-party partners will build new speakers and other audio systems that can link right into the Roku Connect ecosystem. Consumers will issue voice commands to play music and video. There is also the Roku Entertainment Assistant which, unlike Siri and Alexa, will be purely focused on home entertainment. It is also introducing Roku Connect, which will allow devices to communicate wirelessly and respond to voice controls. Today, Magnavox is joining the ecosystem and will launch a range of Roku TVs in the Spring. "Roku already has inroads into TV makers, serving as the "smarts" for their smart TVs".

Roku launched its TV licensing program at the 2014 CES.

According to The Verge, which spoke to Roku executive Mark Ely, Roku wants to expand its OS and assistant to new devices like speakers, sort of how Amazon allows other companies to build Alexa-powered speakers, because it is "the fastest way to acquire active accounts", even more so than selling media players.

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