Microsoft is going live with the Xbox Live interface makeover tomorrow, a major step in the Xbox 360’s long evolution from a games console into a complete home entertainment center. With 57 million Xbox 360 consoles in homes, more than 35 million of which are already connected to Xbox Live, this represents a leap in the number of households with connected TV capabilities.
Expect the company to make a big deal out of its Kinect-enabled voice control capabilities, too, with the tag line: “You say it, Xbox finds it.”
Consumers with Kinect on their Xbox can search and control their entertainment options with voice commands and some gestures, like swiping to another screen. Searching for content is powered by Bing. Initially it will look through everything that’s available on demand, but soon it also will search live TV listings for programming available to FiOS TV and AT&T’s U-verse TV subscribers.
Also debuting tomorrow is the free Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone, which lets consumers learn more details about currently playing movie, TV show, music or game that is playing on their console. According to Larry Hryb, director of Programming for Xbox Live (and possibly better known by his gamer tag, Major Nelson), “You can also get friend activity (friends online, friends with beacons, friends who have recently played), achievements and related items. You’ll also be able to select a search result, and launch a movie, TV show, game or app on the connected console as well as play, pause, fw, rw the playing video or music on the connected Xbox, initiate media purchase and navigate your Xbox console with Windows Phone using the Xbox Companion.”
Partners’ content available in Tuesday’s version of Xbox Live for U.S. users is from Epix, ESPN, Hulu Plus, Netflix, and MSNBC’s Today. Following later this month will be Sony Pictures’ Crackle, Dailymotion, Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio, MSNBC, Warner Bros.’ TMZ, UFC, 26 channels from Verizon’s FiOS TV lineup, Vevo, Wal-Mart’s Vudu, and YouTube. Early in 2012 the Xbox Live service will add BestBuy’s CinemaNow, HBO Go, MLB.TV and Comcast’s Xfinity On Demand for U.S. audiences. (See below for full list of international content partners.)
“Now, all of your entertainment is in one place. Games, music, movies, sports and live and on-demand TV together in one box connected to the best display in your house,” Marc Whitten, corporate vice president, Xbox Live posted on the official blog. “With our latest update, we are launching the first wave of new entertainment experiences and we will continue to add customized entertainment apps over time.”
Bing on Xbox voice search will initially be available in English in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. for Zune video, Xbox Live Marketplace and select content partners. Everywhere else, and those without a Kinect device, can use old-fashioned text.
Microsoft blog post – http://tinyurl.com/8x7abcw
Major Nelson’s blog – http://tinyurl.com/6wdl3u7