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The Roku Digital Video Player just got a lot more interesting

Leo and I discussed this interesting development while recording this week's Windows Weekly yesterday (a day earlier than usual; I'm travelling to Washington D.C. via Amtrak today), but it's worth noting here as well. I'm a big fan of the Roku Digital Video Player because it's small, silent, costs only $99, and doesn't come with an additional subscription fee: All you need is virtually any Netflix subscription, and you get this nice additional set of content you can stream on-demand. The Roku isn't perfect--you can't browse Netflix "Watch Instantly" content from the device and instead need to add items to your "Instant Queue" from a PC's Web browser, which is lame--but man, you can't beat the price. Anyway, it's getting even better. Here's the word from Roku, which arrived yesterday via email:

Your Roku digital video player keeps getting better. Today, I'm excited to tell you two great new benefits of your player. First, you can now watch, in high definition (HD), the hundreds of movies and TV episodes offered in HD instantly by Netflix. Second, an incredible 40,000 movies and TV shows from Amazon Video On Demand will soon be available to choose from on your Roku player.

Things may already look a little different on your Roku home screen. And don't worry -- if they don't now, they will soon. There's nothing you need to do, and there's no need to call us. An automatic, free update will reach your player in the next several days. Just be patient and leave your player plugged in and connected to the Internet. (You'll know you've received the update if, when you press the UP button from the Netflix Instant Queue, you see the purple and white Roku Home screen with icons for Settings, Netflix, and What's New.)

A second update, again free and automatic, requiring no action from you, will arrive in a few weeks. You'll have instant access, from your couch, to over 40,000 commercial-free movies and TV shows for rent or purchase from Amazon Video On Demand. Hits like The Dark Knight, Pineapple Express, Get Smart and others will be available the same day they release on DVD. Rentals range from 99 cents to $3.99 for a 24 hour viewing window and require no monthly subscription fee.

Amazon is just the start. More announcements of new things to watch and enjoy on your Roku player are in the pipeline for 2009.

Good stuff. If you have a Netflix subscription, the Roku is a no-brainer.

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