With Roku’s announcement of their new Roku 3 box and new user interface, many were hoping to finally see an official YouTube channel for the device. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and when asked, Roku said they would like to have a YouTube channel, but didn’t have any update on when/if one would be available. While the company isn’t giving any update, I think that based on the new A9 chip inside the Roku 3, an official YouTube channel could come to the Roku 3 shortly.
For those that don’t know the history of YouTube on Roku, or already have a YouTube channel on their device, he’s some background. In April of 2010, an independent developer launched a private YouTube channel that some Roku users added to their device. Roku liked the work of the developer so much they hired him. But Google took offense to the private channel and Roku was sent a takedown notice from YouTube’s legal team. About a year after the private channel was released, Roku was forced to disable it and no longer allows new customers to sign up for the channel. Since then, other developers have come out with a private channel to get YouTube content, like RateRix, but each time they do they don’t last long before YouTube makes some kind of change in their system to render the apps non-functional. Video Buzz was the latest private YouTube channel to come out and some users report it working for them, but last time I tried I couldn’t get it to work.
Clearly Google wasn’t happy with Roku for allowing the private channel to begin with and many suggest that’s the reason why Roku still had no official YouTube channel today, because Google won’t allow it. But I don’t believe that’s the case. Sources inside Google tell me that they aren’t keeping Roku from having a YouTube channel, rather that the outdated chip in Roku 2 models aren’t capable of supporting Google’s new requirements for any partner who wants to have a YouTube channel on their device.
Google requires partners to integrate their HTML based YouTube app on their device and Roku has previously said that performance of HTML based apps on their Roku 2 boxes didn’t perform to the levels they wanted. All Roku 2 models have an old ARM11 chip, first released in 2003, and the new Roku 3 models have a dual-core A9 chip, a big improvement over the legacy chips. The Arm 11 chip has never been powerful nor a very efficient processor and the dual-core A9 chip is exactly the opposite and is up to 5x faster than the ARM11. One thing I noticed during my hands-on time with the new Roku 3 is that apps and video open and play much faster over the Roku 2, by a noticeable difference. Part of that may be to the amount of memory in the new Roku 3, which allows for the caching of content, but Roku won’t comment on how exactly they setup the video to buffer, saying that’s part of their secret.
If Roku can get an official YouTube channel on their Roku 3 boxes going forward, many will upgrade. Roku would then be the only $99 box in the market to have YouTube, Netflix, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, NBA, NHL, EPIX, HBO Go, Amazon, Vudu and UFC. The Xbox 360 has all of these channels, plus ESPN, but costs twice what the Roku does and is really targeting a different market and type of user. Whatever the exact reason(s) are for how the new Roku 3 box handles video, it’s a better experience. Consumers will benefit from the better UI and faster video playback and the new chip should also allow Roku to bring some better games to the box as well.
And if you want a shot at winning a free Roku 3, I’m giving one away to one lucky reader of my blog. You can enter the drawing here.