Even two years ago, Microsoft may have realized that videogame consoles are a brilliant stalking horse for bringing influence into the living room. With the set-top-box wars heating up, and the fact that videogame consoles often outnumber even VCRs and DVRs in any given home, it’s the perfect place for a corporation to position themselves to get a foot—or at least a cable—in the door. The Xbox console can already deliver a great deal of content from short videos, downloadable content, social experience (via VoIP and on-screen keyboard), and multiplayer gaming.
Now, according to an article published on Digiday, Microsoft partnering with Verizon and Comcast will be bringing the Xbox fully into the living room cloud with Xbox TV.
As Microsoft readies the launch of Xbox TV, the company is exploring a partnership with the biggest cable distributor, Comcast, and upstart Verizon Fios. According to multiple sources, Microsoft would rather not pick a fight with cable and would prefer to think of Xbox as a distribution device for cable TV.
While details are still emerging, the talk is that consumers could subscribe to Comcast or Fios TV packages directly through their Xboxes, without the need to install a set-top box. And given that most Xboxes are Web-connected, the partnership could result in a more sophisticated programming guide and other bells and whistles, such as better targeted advertising. The partnership may even incorporate the technology from Kinect, Xbox’s wildly popular gesture-based gaming platform.
The great thing about Microsoft Xbox becoming a set-top-box for Internet TV is that it consolidates a lot of devices into one place. Many consumers run a cable box to watch cable TV, they hook that into a set-top-box DVR to watch it later, and use cable Internet to hook up their Xbox for multiplayer gaming.
Internet TV is a wide and churning sea currently and its put the fear of media into the cable companies with cord-cutting, Netflix making bank on streaming video (although their recent upset of splitting their business model may hurt them), and proceeding with high costs. As a result, cable companies have been attempting to broaden their foundation by reaching into the very industries that threaten them.
Another reason why partnering with Microsoft will give Comcast and Verizon an anchor to weather the storm.
Microsoft has been seen to be the leader in pushing personal cloud adoption into the living room and the unveiling of Xbox TV alongside the partnership with cable will deliver exactly that. The software giant made its intentions well-known at E3 2011 when spokesmen announced the expansion of Xbox LIVE, which already offloaded much gamer data into the Internet and could draw in media from around the globe. As predicted, the Xbox is the perfect stealth Internet-to-living-room entertainment system and with its huge adoption rate among middle-class consumers—and a staggering 55 million units in the market—it’s positioned perfectly to also offer Internet TV.
What’s that glow welling up behind Microsoft? It’s not just the luminescence of 55 million television sets receiving fiber-optic love; it’s the radiance of huge profits and a brand new customer experience for the video game and software colossus with Comcast and Verizon along for the ride.