'Netflix box' to carry more than just Netflix

The box's maker, Roku, says to expect content soon from other providers.

Turns out, the so-called Netflix box could be even cooler than initially thought.

The tiny black device from Roku was introduced to the world in May as the first box that could stream Netflix's "Watch it Now" option directly to a television.

But the company is saying there could be more where that came from.

Roku Netflix box
Roku

Roku's vice president of consumer products, Tim Twerdahl, said Wednesday that, yes, more content partners are coming, but, no, he's not saying who just yet. That makes the $99 price tag look that much more attractive.

So who will it be? YouTube seems obvious, as they've been partnering with a bunch of hardware makers lately: Panasonic, Sony, Apple, Hewlett-Packard.

Or what about Hulu, as my colleague and CNET's resident home theater expert John P. Falcone suggests?:

The Netflix vids use the VC-1 codec, but the box can handle H.264 as well. Of course, because all of these players--Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, and Sony--are already trying to sell you videos, it's unclear why they'd want to provide a free competitor that's just a click away. So even if a Hulu option is technically feasible, business considerations may keep it relegated to the drawing board. But hey, we can dream, can't we?

Either way, Roku will have to differentiate. Rumors are flying fast that at E3 next month, Sony or Microsoft (or maybe both) will announce support for Netflix's "Watch it Now" feature as well, for the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, respectively.

And though far more expensive than $99, both game consoles have large install bases, and are also far more functional beyond just streaming video.

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