Streaming media has become a regular part of many home entertainment choices, with folks (myself included), choosing Netflix, Amazon, and HBO Go instead of scheduled programming or even On Demand. And now many streaming devices have gaming channels, music, and the ability to run personal apps like Facebook and Picasa.
Streaming media devices can also be an inexpensive and cool addition to the office. Most businesses are setting up flat panel screens in their conference rooms and lobbies for better presentation viewing, adding visual elements during meetings, and entertainment for clients as they wait. In open office environments, which house many start ups, screens are usually set to news channels all day long. Connecting an inexpensive streaming media device can break up the monotony with music, pictures from the last office happy hour, and the occasional stress busting game of Angry Birds.
How to choose? Here are some of the best streaming devices for your money:
Roku wasn’t the original but it appears to be innovating the fastest in the streaming industry and currently has the most choices. Roku has four models, ranging from $49 to $100. Every Roku device gives you access to over 400 channels and growing, with the more expensive models featuring HD video support, a remote for motion control with games, and USB port. Just last month Roku announced a streaming “stick” that will deliver all the joy of streaming from something the size of a jump drive. It’s a solid bet, and you can’t beat the price tag.
I recommend this with reservations because I think the real Apple TV, predicted to debut this fall (or winter, or next spring), will come with streaming technology built inside. But just in case I’m wrong, or if your business has a bonified Apple ecosystem going, then Apple TV is the streaming device for you. Apple TV is the only streaming box compatible with iTunes and AirPlay, which lets you stream content from your iPad and iPhone – both of which are often used as business tools. Apple TV doesn’t have as many channels a Roku, and sits at the high end at $99. But it’s a reliable, great device that will complete your hipster system.
Boxee might be the original streaming device, and possibly ahead of its time. I first saw Boxee a few years ago at a Wired party at CES. It was one of 10 or so gadgets on display and everyone who saw it couldn’t lift their jaw off the floor. As is often the case with first-on-the-scene gadgets, Boxee got a little overshadowed by other streaming devices with bigger marketing budgets than this start up. It’s still holding it’s own though, and is actually a great device from a company that continues to innovate. The company just announced Boxee LiveTV, which lets you stream live sports, local news, special events, and shows from your local broadcast stations via an HD antenna. Like other streaming devices you can get all of the great Internet channels such as Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, and apps like Facebook. Boxee costs $167, making it the most expensive of these options.
There are several more options enterting the market, and it’s probable that in the next few years the TVs we buy (not just from Apple) will contain this tech inside and we’ll order streaming services from cable. But until then, $100 or less to widen your media capability in the office is a good buy.