Great post ... hopefully the folks @ Roku will take the intended supportive feedback.
I'm running into similar problems in my quest for the *perfect* player.
Back in 2000, I put together a complete JVC Home Theatre, spent the money on the Top-End JVC Components (including the Receiver) which offered sub-room capabilities so that I could install a separate set of speakers for the dining area. So essentially, the receiver allows for main-room & sub-room activities to be different.
Afterwards, I invested in a couple of XBOX'es; one for XBOX Live and the other for XBMC (www.xboxmediacenter.com
). Both XBOX'es are connected to the JVC Receiver. The *unmodded* XBOX is used for gaming and XBLive and the other *modded* XBOX is used to run XBMC. The HDD in the modded XBOX is 250GB and currently contains my entire CD collection in MP3 format. Now someone can watch TV downstairs while we listen to music in the dining area - all good ... so far.
To further add complexity to my life, I married someone who often says: "Well that's all great, but what about when..."
We spend a good portion of our summer months outside in our garden with friends & family. Right now, we take a portable CD/Radio outside to listen to music. I got the idea that it would be great to have a portable audio system that could stream the audio stored on the XBMC HDD via WiFi - the SoundBridge looked like the solution.
After extensive research, I've come to discover the following technological challenges:
XBMC is cable of consolidating Media Sources but wasn't designed to allow streaming - or what I call universal distribution. XBMC is capable of connecting to a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device providing it is capable of SMB/SAMBA. So essentially, I could purchase a NAS drive and move all of my media to it but I still couldn't use the SB2000.
The SB2000 is capable of playing audio from media servers such as WMC, SlimServer, MT-DAAP, Wonky, and possibly others. The problem however is that it does not support SMB/SAMBA and it requires a Media Server services - as you are already well aware. Technically however, the challenge is far greater; I have to find a NAS that is modable (ex: Linksys NAS), void the warranty by hacking the firmware, purchase an extra application (ex: Wonky) and install that on the modded NAS, and make sure that the NAS still offers SMB/SAMBA so as to allow XBMC to stream the audio via my Home Theatre when we are indoors. Furthermore, I must now keep the NAS hacked firmware, the SB2000 firmware, the XBMC application, and the HXBOX hacked bios up-to-date on regular basis.
As a consumer my challenges revolve around finding a solution that is self contained. As you probably have seen from many posts, no one wants to use a PC - and I agree; they are prone to failure, virus, and vulnerabilities. And when they breakdown, finding parts is next to impossible.
So it seems that challenges for companies like Roku are from all ends 1) Codec formats, 2) Operating System, 3) Network & Communication Protocols, 4) DRM, and 5) financial viability - the last one being the most important I suspect.
From a design perspective, it seems like a product that contains support for SMB/SAMBA, has a media server, and would included a plug-in for each major Operating System would do the trick - simpler said than done I am sure.
"Low maintenance, now there's an idea"