We've been waiting for Roku to release its miniaturized dongle since CES, and now we finally know the flash drive-sized Streaming Stick will be available next month for $99. Priced the same as as the Roku 2 XS set-top box, it brings the same feature set but in a smaller package designed to work directly with your HDTV, thanks to power, remote control and data signals fed through an MHL-compatible HDMI port. While it will work with other MHL-ready host devices, manufacturers with Roku Ready stamped and certified HDTVs on shelves this fall will include Apex, Insignia and Hitachi -- Onkyo plans to ship receivers early next year. If you pick up an otherwise dumb flat-panel with the stick bundled along with it the price is set by that manufacturer, but the standalone plan means buyers savings are focused on the two cables they won't be needing, and simplified remote capability since their TV remote can talk to the Stick directly. Like the Roku 2 XS, the Streaming Stick also includes the motion control capable game remote.
A separate move will benefit many existing Roku owners, as it is also announcing that Walmart-owned Vudu is launching on the platform today. You will need a Roku HD (2500), LT or Roku 2 box (or the Streaming Stick, once it launches) to take advantage of the Vudu app and its streams that bring quality of up to 1080p and 7.1 surround sound. That also means access to Vudu-compatible UltraViolet movie titles on yet another set-top box, if that's a consideration, and users score a $5.99 credit with Vudu just for linking the account to their boxes. All the details are in the press release after the break, and on the Roku blog.
Gallery: Roku Streaming Stick hands-on