Roku's Netflix channel will soon allow for on-screen searches and queue manipulations.
John FalconeSenior Editorial Director, Shopping
John P. Falcone is the senior director of commerce content at CNET, where he coordinates coverage of the site's buying recommendations alongside the CNET Advice team (where he previously headed the consumer electronics reviews section). He's been a CNET editor since 2003.
ExpertiseOver 20 years experience in electronics and gadget reviews and analysis, and consumer shopping adviceCredentials
Self-taught tinkerer, informal IT and gadget consultant to friends and family (with several self-built gaming PCs under his belt)
Netflix online video streaming is nearly ubiquitous on newer network-connected TVs, Blu-ray players, and game consoles. But a common complaint about most iterations of the service is that it's "read only"--you're locked into whatever queue you've previously set up on your PC. That's changed in recent months on some devices, however: the Xbox 360, for instance, also includes a variety of genre-based "what's new" lists, so you can instantly access new and noteworthy titles. Now that sort of functionality is finally on its way to the original Netflix device: the Roku Player.
Roku's just posted a YouTube video (embedded above) that provides a quick demonstration of the upgrade that will be hitting its trio of set-top streaming boxes in June. In addition to providing the Xbox-like ability to browse--and play--highlighted titles by genre, the upgrade will also add full-text onscreen search--a feature that's already available on other Roku channels, such as Amazon and Mediafly.
To our knowledge, the upgrade would make the Roku the first device (without a Web browser) to support Netflix search. If the demo is reflective of the final product, it also appears to offer a smoother, more animated interface that's more efficient and pleasing to the eye.
The impending Netflix upgrade comes on the heels of additional content channels being added to Roku Players. In addition to niche online program offerings such as Kung Fu Theater and Cowboy Classics (both $1.99 per month), Roku recently added the free NBA Game Time channel, which provides on-demand highlights and scores.