Roku's easy-to-use streaming players and TVs have gained a lot of fans. If you're among them, your Roku devices could get some new capabilities—and some new friends—later this year. The company says it's moving into new product categories, including smart speakers and sound bars, and some of these could communicate with Roku devices already in people's homes.

The company won't be building these new products itself, however. Using the same approach it has taken with Roku TVs, it will instead license reference designs and software to other companies to build products that work with a new Roku Connect platform.

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And with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant clearly in its sights, Roku says these new items, as well as Roku TVs and streaming players, will get their own voice-powered digital assistant called the Roku Entertainment System. The software will also be rolled out to many current Roku TVs and players as a free update this fall.

“We’ve always focused on making it incredibly simple for consumers to find and enjoy streaming entertainment on their TVs," Anthony Wood, Roku's CEO, said in a statement. "With an expanded Roku ecosystem, consumers will be able to add great sound to their TVs and audio around the whole home in a modern way.” 

Roku Gets Smart

Unlike competitors such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which offer a broader range of skills, the Roku Entertainment Assistant will be optimized for home entertainment. Voice-enabled devices that use the Roku Connect system will let consumers use voice commands to play music on a sound bar, smart speaker, multiroom audio system, and surround-sound system.

Roku Connect devices will connect to each other wirelessly and will be controlled by a single remote control.

Both the Roku Entertainment Assistant and the Roku Connect software will be rolled out as a free update to the Roku operating system this fall. TCL, one of the first companies to offer Roku TVs, is coming onboard as the first Roku Connect licensee, and Roku says it will unveil its first product at CES—the mammoth electronics trade show—in Las Vegas next week.

And if you're in the market for a new Roku TV, you'll soon have another brand from which to choose: Magnavox, a brand now controlled by Funai. The company says it will launch its first Roku TVs this spring. Funai also licenses the Sanyo TV brand here in the U.S., as well as Philips through a partnership called P&F USA.