I’ve noticed that the Roku website is now showing the Roku HD box as “Out Of Stock”. A quick Amazon search shows someone who appears to be selling HD boxes for $78.50, more than the Walmart price for the XD. Many manufacturers will mark products this way as they clear their channels to prepare for introducing new products, but what can we expect from Roku? Let’s sift through the clues.
Roku Product Refresh Timeline
Looking back the Roku box timeline, Roku seems to refresh their boxes annually in the fall (aka before Christmas). Going back the last few years, the Roku had a major refresh in October 2009 where they brought out the SD, HD, and HD-R models. In Sept 2010, Roku brought out the HD, XD, and XDS boxes. I find it almost certain that Roku would be aiming a refresh at this fall. Giving the competition from Apple and other devices like XBoxes, PS3s, and TVs, it would be concerning if they didn’t refresh for Christmas. But does that explain why the HD model is no longer for sale?
Roku and the Walmart Factor
Walmart is known for being tough on it’s suppliers. They expect timely and cheap products at the volumes they can push. One alternative explanation for the Roku HD being out of stock is that it distracts from Roku’s new Walmart sales channel. Roku and Walmart settled on the XD as the right product for the volume. I suspect it’s because of the 1080p and 802.11n wireless. If Walmart, the king of cheap, set’s the bar above your lowest cost product, it’s time to move on past that product and focus on what’s pushing the volume
Roku Pushing Volume or Product Refresh?
I suspect that the reality is a bit of both. Roku is pushing to get unit sales up with the deal through Walmart. If Walmart passes on your lowest cost product, don’t be distracted by it. Instead, I expect Roku to be focusing on making the XD (or a newly launched equivalent) the minimum specs for the next generation refresh that should be coming in the fall. When will Roku announce? Based on their response to the Apple TV last year, I suspect that Roku will put something out there before the fall Apple event where the iPhone 5 and a rumored Apple branded TV would likely be introduced.
Update: The answer is apparently yes.