Citing public job postings and internal documents obtained by one of its writers, Variety speculates Roku is working an Amazon Echo-like smart speaker.
One of those job posting has Roku searching for a senior software engineer that will help the company with “building a centre of audio excellence.” The same posting also says, “You must have a proven track record of developing and porting software for new hardware platforms from prototype to mass production.”
Of course, as Variety itself points out, Roku could put those new hires toward helping it improve its existing voice offerings; several of the company’s currently available products feature rudimentary voice control functionality.
That said, some of the Roku’s more recent hires definitely appear to point toward the company working on a smart speaker. For instance, the company’s director of engineering, Hari Ramakrishnan, says on his LinkedIn profile that he’s working on “far field voice and audio engineering.” Another recent hire, Jim Cortez, cofounded a company called Ivee that works on home voice assistants.
There’s also the fact that Roku has dabbled with speaker products in the past. Back in 2008, the company released the SoundBridge (pictured above), a speaker that allowed its owners to play internet radio stations without a PC or mobile app. The speaker wasn’t a success, mostly thanks to the fact streaming services like Spotify had yet to dramatically change music listener habits.
As for why Roku would want to build a smart speaker, a product category that’s rapidly becoming more crowded with each passing day, Amazon’s success in the space likely has something to do with the company’s motives. Roku also plans to raise $255 million USD through its upcoming IPO. Showing investors that it’s abreast of larger tech developments would likely be a way to generate investor confidence for Roku.