Today Roku launched two new players to complement the original $99 Roku player. Perhaps somewhat obviously, the two new players come in at $79 and $129, allowing Roku to test whether there's price elasticity in this market.
I'm not sure this was a necessary move. The cheaper box (called Roku SD), simply removes HD playback from the original Roku Player (now called Roku HD). The $129 version offers wireless-n wi-fi streaming to deliver dramatically better video quality. I don't personally need that since I hook up my Roku player -- which is in constant demand in my home -- via ethernet. (Yes, being a nerd has its advantages including a fully self-wired home that has over 24 ethernet ports in it.) So while I can see the value of the more expensive box for wi-fi users who have wireless-n routers (do you know if you do? betcha don't know), I think muddying the waters with 3 boxes instead of a maximum of 2 just feels like unnecessary complexity. A bit like Amazon announcing it would sell two versions of the Kindle in the US, one that's domestic only and one that can roam abroad, a decision doesn't appear likely to last very long.
We've been flogging the media industries for years at Forrester. So much so that we sometimes assume that people remember all the ways we've warned, cajoled, and exhorted for more than a decade. But based on the things we're seeing the pundits finally say, it's clear that "the end is near" is a pressingly recent recognition on the part of many. For examples, see Malcolm Gladwell's review of Chris Anderson's book Free; Mark Bowden's lament over the loss of journalism ethics in The Atlantic; or programmer/essayist Paul Graham's thoughtful reflection on Post-medium Publishing.
Don't get me wrong: we welcome these and more voices to a conversation we've been trying to start for some years now. (If you think I'm just posturing, I direct your attention to former Forrester VP Mary Modahl's July 1994 piece entitled Publications Get Wired where she first blew up the "print isn't going away" myth.) But there are some very fundamental things that are getting lost in most of the discussions we are hearing. Namely, people are stuck on processes, historical reinterpretation, future prognostications, and personal feelings at the passing of an era.
In the end, however, none of that will matter as the fundamental economics of digital media assert themselves. Basically, it's now cheaper to make, distribute, and consume media. That changes everything.