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Roku takes on Google with new Chromecast-like feature

The TV video-streaming companion will now offer a way to stream from third-party apps like Netflix.

Roku devices
Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku will add a new feature that will let users stream content straight from third-party mobile apps, mimicking the function of Google's Chromecast device.

Roku CEO Anthony Wood talked about the new feature, and his company's competition with Google, at the Next TV Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Wood called Google his company's biggest competitor because of Google's extensive investment in TV and other connected devices. He said the key to succeeding in this market will be TV integration with Roku's technology, and Wood thinks Roku has the leg up on on Google in this area. "We think we are well ahead of Google in terms of licensing," he said at the summit.

The new Roku feature -- known as discovery and launch protocol (DIAL) -- will essentially turn a user's smartphone into a remote control. While Roku'siOS app and its Android appcan already do this, the added feature will let users stream video from third-party apps. Chromecast currently does this with Netflix and YouTube. It's unclear what apps will be able to do this for Roku, but the device's current native apps, which include one from Netflix, greatly outnumber Chromecast. Yet, Roku still does not have an app for YouTube, a longtime shortcoming for the device.

The new feature isn't live and a Roku spokesperson told CNET that the company isn't announcing a launch date yet.

While adding DIAL lets Roku say it has the same feature as Chromecast, it doesn't guarantee any new sources of content, but the competition is clearly in full swing.

Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick
Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku already had a Chromecast-like dongle called the Roku Streaming Stick, but the buzz around Chromecast's launch was enough to make the video-streaming company step up its offerings.

Additionally, Chromecast's $35 price made up for its lack of apps initially, but this might not matter if the Roku LT device, which is normally $50, continues to be sold for $40, as seen here on Amazon.