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March 22, 2006

Bose should partner with Roku

Categories Home Audio 

Just in case you two haven't met, Bose meet Roku, Roku meet Bose. Roku, in addition to making their own sweet network music players, also licenses their "Wifi Media Module" to OEMs. Bose should seriously consider using this technology in a "Bose WaveRadio Wifi". Particularly since the iPod Hi-fi from Apple has been a big let down.

Just a little back-story: Roku makes a device called the SoundBridge which you connect to your home stereo or external speakers, and it can wirelessly stream internet radio and access computer music libraries on the network. The unit has a display and the remote allows you to select artist, album, playlist, etc. There are a handful of products like this out there, but the SoundBridge pairs great functionality with a low price (the basic model is only $150). Also, for accessing an iTunes library no software is required, it should just work out of the box. What's incredibly clever about Roku is they sell the technology (which probably amounts to a custom chip and wifi device) to do all this to other OEMs. So seemingly they're less interested than moving SoundBridges as they are selling their hardware to other manufacturers.

If Bose used Roku's hardware in a "Bose WaveRadio Wifi," the device would be able to wirelessly play streaming internet radio, music from any computer on the network, and also AM/FM radio like all the other WaveRadio. A product like this could fill a perfect niche for people who want an attractive compact stereo that offers conventional radio functionality and access computer music libraries and internet Radio. Basically that should translate to tons of iPod/iTunes users over 25 who aren't total audiophiles. Something like this could also compete well with satellite radio products. It could also be at a price point (probably around $500) which is palatable.

The Roku hardware is likely pretty compact given the form factor of the SoundBridge products, so Bose could probably squeeze the parts in to their exisiting WaveRadio shell. Which means they might not even have to create any new molds for the product.

Now some readers will probably point out that Roku is already making a compact stereo, the SoundBridge Radio ($399). And yes, the Bose Product would be basically the same. However, I'd expect the Bose product to sell much better than the SoundBridge Radio given Bose's substantial marketing abilities, and connections to retailers everywhere. Plus, Bose is such a well established audio brand. So while some customers may be interested in the functionality of the SoundBridge Radio, they may be skeptical about the sound quality from such a new brand. I'm sure the product sounds very good (probably not quite as good as a WaveRadio), but if customers see the Bose label they know they'll be getting very good sound quality.

Besides this is really an idea for Bose, they've basically offered the same old WaveRadio and WaveRadio CD for years. It's time for something new...


Couldn't agree more, although the lack of comments to this blog seem to indicate the time may not yet be right. I have a Bose Wave Radio CD and two Roku Soundbridge Radio's, and to be honest the Soundbridge quality isn't what it could be. I have a failed power supply in my SB, and this is a common fault with this particular unit, and that was only after a few months. I've had my Bose for a number of years with no problems whatsoever, which indicates to me that Bose quality control is probably significantly better than a small company like Roku can provide.

My only comment to your suggestion would be that Roku's module currently is based on the 802.11b standard, whereas most networks now would be working on either the "g" standard or even the new "n" standard. Having a "b" module may cause two reasonably significant problems, a)it would downgrade the speed of your wireless network to a "b" standard, unless you had a separate router just to handle "b" traffic, and b)there are buffering, interference and distance issues with a "b" that may well be overcome with a stronger "g" signal. My recommendation would be to wait for Roku to develop and market a "g" wireless module, rather than install a "b" module.

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