Roku's new 'Streaming Stick' will make any TV smart

By Cory Bergman 

As connected (or “smart”) TVs become all the rage leading into CES, Roku announced today it’s working on a “Streaming Stick” that can convert any dumb TV into a smart device. In essence, it’s a Roku box in a stick that plugs straight into a television’s HDMI port.

“It essentially includes everything in a Roku player – built-in WiFi, processor, memory and software – and will deliver all the channels found on the Roku platform today,” explains Anthony Wood, Founder and CEO at Roku. “It will also benefit from regular free software updates and channel enhancements.”

The idea is to keep it stupid simple for the millions of Americans who struggle to understand how the next generation of TV works. Viewers can use the same TV remote to run the Roku experience, and there are no cables to worry about. The stick will be available “later this year” in the $50-100 range, Wood says. It will work with MHL-enabled HDMI plugs, which are not available (yet) on most TVs.

While this may look like a bit of an end-around with TV manufacturers to ensure Roku is a player in the connected TV space, Wood says Roku is working with manufacturers to allow them to bundle it with their TVs. “Imagine Smart TVs with ‘Roku Inside’ delivered via a replaceable Streaming Stick,” he said. “Insignia will be among the first manufacturers to pair the Roku Streaming Stick to create a Smart TV for Best Buy.”

Roku says it sold nearly 1.5 million units in 2011, triple what it sold in 2010.