Microsoft storms into connected TV with Xbox

Microsoft has belly-flopped into the middle of the gaming, TV and entertainment market, and is set to make huge waves with the latest iteration of its Xbox software, delivering a vast cache of on-demand movie and TV content directly through the console’s Xbox Live connection.

The company is partnering with 40 film, sport, TV and music content providers around the world, including Amazon’s Love Film, ESPN, BBC, Netflix, BskyB and a host of others, providing content, many via apps installed on the Xbox console.

Microsoft is also launching the first mobile app ever to tie in directly to a gaming console. The free app, cunningly titled Xbox Companion, is free for WP7 users to download from December 6. It allows users to control their console, while also searching the Xbox catalogue for content across all providers.

“A new era in entertainment begins where all your entertainment is together in one place,” said Don Mattrick, president of Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “With this update, Xbox 360 system owners will experience Kinect voice control integrated with Bing search, making your TV and entertainment experiences more social and personal than ever.”

The Xbox update has added a raft of new functionality to the console, plus a ‘Metro’ style, tile navigation system that brings the user experience in line with the WP7 operating system.

Users will be able to use Xbox Kinect voice control to play, pause and search for content using an integrated Bing search tool that allows users to search across the Xbox content partners for content. The scale of search offered by the Bing factor is a serious step forward for connected TV.

Also, cloud services mean users can log into any internet connected console to access previously saved games and content.

Latest industry figures in the US show the popular Microsoft console outselling Nintendo’s Wii by 400,000 units in November, up 5% of the same month last year. And with 35m of the world’s 57m Xbox consoles already connected to the Xbox Live service, this update has the potential to propel Microsoft into a dominant position in the space already coveted by a number of key operators, not to mention Google and Apple.

“This is now the benchmark against which all other living room initiatives should be compared,” said James McQuivey of Forrester Research. “With more than 57 million people worldwide already sitting on a box that’s about to be upgraded for free, Microsoft has not only built the right experience, it has ensured that it will spread quickly and with devastating effect.”


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