Predictions For The Roku 2

Update: The Roku 2 has been announced.

My previous post on the Roku 2 FCC filings left many questions unanswered. I’ve read through the filings and made some predictions and hopes on what to expect for the Roku 2.

Roku 2 FCC Filings

Engadget identified 8 different documents filed with the FCC:

  • Attestation letter: This promises that the device is to only be used in the US. It identifies 3 model numbers – 3000X, 3050X, and the 3100X.
  • Declaration of Authorization: This designates a 3rd party to represent Roku in the application. It identifies the model numbers and the market as IP-STB, an internet set-top box.
  • Confidentiality Request: This requests that the schematics, block diagrams, and descriptions of operation not be disclosed. It also requests a 45-day delay in releasing external and internal photos, test setup photos, and the users manual. We’ll be checking back in 45 days. I suspect that there was a slip-up and Engadget got hold of the test report without the photos removed.
  • Declaration of Conformity: Roku promises that they meet the FCC requirements necessary to have the FCC compliance logo on their box.
  • Request To Supersede: They’re changing the FCC label location and requesting to be able to do so.
  • Label And Location: Description of the FCC label. This includes an outline of the box size.
  • RF Exposure Evaluation: This describes the transmission power of the 802.11b/g/n wireless system.
  • Test Report: This is the bulk of the testing details and has some very interesting nuggets

The first take-away is that there will be more information in about 45 days. I would speculate that the new Roku boxes will be unveiled before the FCC does it for them, which places the product announcement on or before mid-August. Now, let’s get into the details.

What’s In The Roku 2 Test Report

The test report is both the longest at 95 pages available online out of a total of 114. Some findings that we can take from the report:

  • The 3100x will use a 7.5w power supply while the 3050x and 3000x will use a 5w power supply (page 6)
  • The Roku box is being tested with an Apple iPod Nano (model #A1199) plugged into the USB socket (page 10, 11)
  • Pages 96 – 114 have been removed from the FCC website. The index lists these pages to contain photos of the test setup and the device being tested. The records show that the report was revised on 6/30, a day after the Engadget release of photos. Oops!

So, what did we get? Roku is doing something with Apple iPods hooked up to the boxes, and the 3100x needs some extra power. Beyond this, we’re left to what Engadget has extracted from the original report to speculate.

The New Roku 2 Processor

Engadget did identify a new processor, presumably from the now redacted photos, to be the Broadcom BCM2835. The previous main processor was the Trident/NXP PNX8935. The old processor was quite long in the tooth, having been around since at least 2006. The BCM2835 appears to be so new, Broadcom has not publicly launched it. Or it’s a semi-custom chip. Either way, that implies that Roku’s getting something fairly modern. We can take some guesses at the performance by sifting through Broadcom’s materials.

Broadcom introduced a new series of IP TV and set-top box chips in January. This rather powerful group has somewhere between 4x and 7x more processing heftiness compared to the existing NPX solution. More importantly, Broadcom is pitching the expansive software stack, including a web browser stack (Webkit HTML), Adobe Flash compatibility, and DLNA support. Whether Roku goes with something based on this family or something with a little less horsepower, Broadcom does bring a lot of features to the table. I suspect that was a strong motivator behind the change from NXP to Broadcom as the supplier of choice.

Roku 2 Field Reports

From Engadget’s original report, we can expect more RAM, bluetooth capabilities, an Apple TV-like form factor, and some remote control improvements on the high end. In addition, a beta tester sent in some photos. The beta tester reported that the video looked better, but in most other ways seemed to be a similar system.

Roku 2 Predictions

I see great potential here, but reading the tea leaves is hard. Still, I swirl them around, avoid the grim, and take a guess. Some of this is hope enabled by the bits and pieces revealed in the FCC filing, but at least it’s a warm-fuzzy hope.

First, the Roku will be unveiled by August 15th. All units will have web browser “channels” enabled within a few months of release using the Broadcom Webkit software support. They’ll also have Adobe Flash support. This will, hopefully, allow Roku to bypass the limitations that Hulu places on set-top boxes. The Roku 2 family will also add support as a DNLA player to allow video streaming to it. I expect Bluetooth keyboard and mouse support for the web browser.

The 3010X will add some additional features onto it. It will play audio and/or videos hosted on iPods, iPhones, and other similar devices, and have a snazzier remote control that doubles as a joystick.

You’ve got me on the record for my guesses. Let’s see what happens in the next few months.  If Roku is looking for beta testers, I’m happy to sign up.

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