Austin Carr for Fast Company looks back at the project that started as “The Netflix Player” but was eventually spun out into the Roku box/company:
It was December 2007, and the device was just weeks away from launching. Yet after all the years and resources and talent invested in the project (a team of roughly 20 had been working on it around the clock, from ironing out the industrial design and user interface to taking trips to Foxconn to finalize production details), Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was having serious second thoughts. The problem? Hastings realized that if Netflix shipped its own hardware, it would complicate potential partnerships with other hardware makers. “Reed said to me one day, ‘I want to be able to call Steve Jobs and talk to him about putting Netflix on Apple TV,’” recalls one high-level source. “‘But if I’m making my own hardware, Steve’s not going to take my call.’”
In hindsight, good call.
But ultimately, Wood says, “It was totally the right decision. Licensing [digital content] has been hugely successful for Netflix. [The Netflix Player] would’ve created tension with partners, and increasingly decisions would come up where Netflix would have to decide, ‘Should we make decisions based on what’s best for licensing, or what’s best for our own hardware?’”
Sounds eerily similar to the dilemmas that both Google (with Motorola) and Microsoft (with Surface) now face, no?