As Google struggles to deliver another version of Google TV, Microsoft is looking to turn their Xbox offering into more of a home entertainment hub with voice commands that instantly delivers content. The device will compete head on with both Google TV and offerings from Sony via their Playstation Network.Gone will be remote controls, instead users will utter a voice command and the new Xbox entertainment hub will deliver content, a Microsoft spokesperson said.
The software company who recently cut a deal with Foxtel to deliver TV content to an Xbox is believed to be working on an entertainment hub that in Australia will deliver BigPond TV and content from TV stations as well as Hula who are currently setting up an Australian operation.
Jose Pinero, a spokesman for Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business said recently that Microsoft is currently working towards a new Xbox entertainment offering. In the USA, the company already delivers Netflix, a Zune video marketplace, Facebook and Twitter, and the ESPN sporting channel which is currently delivered in Australia via Foxtel to the Xbox 360.
Pinero told Home Media Magazine recently: “We are on this path where we are going to add more partners and offer something for everyone. If you want to play games, you can do that. If you want to watch movies, you can go to our video marketplace and watch them instantly in 1080p and 5.1 surround sound”.
As part of their entertainment expansion, Microsoft is looking to deliver the same content to a Windows Phone 7 Smartphone, Tablets and PCs as well as their Xbox home entertainment system.
Currently Microsoft has 50 million Xbox 360 consoles worldwide, and 30 million of those are connected to Xbox Live.
Pinero said that their future model will be based on content partnerships. “Besides working with aggregators such as Hulu Plus and Netflix, we have a model where we work directly with network operators in the United Kingdom (Sky), France (Canal Plus) and Australia (Foxtel).
He said that watching TV was becoming more of an interactive experience and that Microsoft already had the technology to deliver an enhanced viewing experience. He cited Sky TV as an example of what Microsoft could deliver in Australia in the future.
He said that Sky launched in 2009, and it was the first time live TV was delivered straight through a video game console.
“Sky is a great example of one way we deliver live and on-demand TV shows, sports and movies, overlaid with a rich interactive experience, which shows your friends online, what shows they’re watching and allows you to group up and watch it with them in a virtual living room environment, with up to eight viewers at a time”.
“In this virtual living room environment, you can use emotes to express your mood or thoughts through your avatar. Viewers can also make recommendations for everyone else to see, and bookmark, like, comment, rate and review films. And there’s a unique opportunity for content producers here, because they can see which videos are at the top, which are being viewed and recommended the most”
“Sports events, ‘Australian Idol,’ the Oscars, shows like that are a natural fit for a group-viewing environment like this. Currently on average 11 percent of the television audience on Xbox in the United Kingdom watches TV together over Xbox Live. We’ve seen this figure spike to 20 percent during certain sporting events, and we’re seeing kids use this as a virtual hangout during summer holidays. The Sky experience we have today in the United Kingdom is a great representation of what the future of TV watching can become.”
He added: “Our intent was to broaden the appeal of Xbox, and we realised that it started as a gaming console, and a lot of the initial users were core gamers. We also knew that the core gamers of 10 years ago may have families now and may still play Call of Duty with their buddies after 10 p.m., but earlier in the evening, they’re playing Lego Batman with their kids or watching a movie on Netflix. Kinect helps us reach that wider audience and bring them together, particularly for moms who have never touched a controller. For the first time, you don’t have to be a gamer to really enjoy Xbox. You can just stand in front of it and be part of the action. Wave your hand and it recognises it; speak commands and your Xbox knows what you’re saying”.
When asked about Blu ray movies Vs streaming, Pinero said: “HD DVD was designed to be a less expensive, interim technology that transitioned people from DVDs into the world of streaming and interactivity. We fundamentally understand people want to watch movies, they don’t want to wait, and they want to have great picture quality and sound. That’s why we worked on bringing the best streaming technology to our marketplace, with 1080p video and 5.1 surround sound. Our whole focus has been to deliver the best video experience, with no download time, no waiting time. You say “play” and it starts right away. That’s the experience we created with games, and that’s the experience we want to deliver with all content”.
When asked about future developments for the Xbox entertainment system Pinero said: “With Kinect allowing people to control their movie experience, I think that will open up Xbox as a destination for even more premium content. Just like my kids don’t understand the concept of rewinding a cassette, five years from now kids may not understand that there was a time they could not control their movies with their voice”.
He added: “Today our marketplace for Xbox Live is thriving, where we sell digital goods, like the latest T-shirt design, accessories, as well as downloadable games and movies to rent or own. We now have more revenue on the transactional side than the subscription side. Going forward, we see the potential for even more e-commerce revenue”.