Tech Plurality: Roku + Google Play

Tech Plurality: Roku + Google Play

Sleeping with the enemy

For those who move between different digital media ecosystems, Roku just became even more of a no-brainer. In addition to supporting Amazon's services, heavy-hitters like Netflix and Hulu Plus, and Miracast, Roku's latest living room set-top boxes now support Google Play Movies & TV as well.

That's pretty incredible. And while it's not the full Google Play entertainment experience—Google Play Music would be nice, too—this addition goes a long way towards making Roku that all-in-one device for the living room. (By contrast, you need an Xbox 360 or Xbox One to access Xbox Video, or a Miracast dongle and a Windows PC, tablet or Phone.)

I very quickly tested the new Google Play Movies & TV app on my Roku Streaming Stick today, and will add it to the Roku 3 in the living room over the weekend. (It's been sort of crazy this week, so I didn't spend a lot of time with it.) You add it as you do other apps, through the Channel Store. (Roku apps are called channels.)

After signing in to my Google account—which requires typing in a code in a PC- or tablet-based web browser, much easier than entering your user name and password with the Roku remote—I was prompted to create a 4-digit PIN for Roku-based purchases. (Amazon does something similar for its own movie and TV services on Roku.)

And then you're in. There's a free gift from Google—an HD copy of the movie "X-Men," which is nice. And of course you can access any movies and TV shows you've purchased through the service already. You can enable captions for those videos that support that and it all seems to work about as well as I would expect.

The one cool feature I haven't tried yet is that you can access a Google Play feature called Info Cards to learn more about actors on screen. Just press Pause and the name of each actor appears. So it's not the full "X-Ray" feature like you see in Amazon Instant Video on portable devices, but kind of a nice feature.

I'll try to spend more time with this over the weekend. But you can access Google Play Movies & TV with the Roku 3 (usually $99, but currently $85 on or the Roku Streaming Stick ($49.99).

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