Roku's Entering the Smart Audio Market, But Won't Make the Hardware Itself

By Tom Pritchard on at

It's not hard to see why Roku devices are so popular. 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. Now it's bringing that same take to the world of smart audio, with he key difference that it won't actually be making any of the hardware itself.

Instead Roku is developing the software, called Roku Connect, that third party licensors will use on their own audio devices. The licensing programme was announced today, and made references to smart soundbars and speakers, plus surround sound and multi-room audio systems. Those devices will run the Roku Connect software, which will allow wireless connectivity and a virtual assistant that offers voice control.

The whole point of it all is to make it easier for consumers to put together their own smart audio system, using a single integrated platform - rather than having to deal with competing systems.

The assistant is called Roku Entertainment Assistant (bit of a mouthful, that) and is expected to roll out to all Roku devices sometime this autumn. Naturally you won't need to say the whole thing to activate the Roku assistant, all you'll need to say is "Hey, Roku".

The focus of Roku Connect will also be on entertainment, rather than controlling smart home devices or finding information like you would do with an Amazon Echo or Google Home. In the past Roku has emphasised its own neutrality in a world where spats over streaming devices are all too common, and it seems as though Roku Connect won't be changing that. Sonos might want to be a little bit worried, but Amazon and Google still have plenty of ways to flog their own smart speakers.

It's not charging third parties to use the license either, instead monestising the system in different ways - like the ad-supported Roku TV channel that launched stateside last year.

The first Roku Connect device is being made by TCL, the same company that made the Roku TV that was released last year. With CES set to officially begin at the end of the week, we might be hearing about it sooner rather than later. [Slashgear]

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