The Xbox is Already the Television of the Future

Farhad Manjoo makes the interesting observation that Microsoft’s Xbox is already ahead of the curve when it comes to bringing television into the Internet-era.

Over the last few months, Microsoft has turned its video-game console into your TV’s best friend. Late last year, the company revamped the Xbox’s interface, adding a wonderful voice-search feature through the Kinect motion-gaming add-on. Microsoft also added dozens of entertainment services to its Xbox Live online plan, including Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, and on-demand video from cable and satellite services around the world. This week, the company is adding access to Comcast’s Xfinity on-demand service, as well as apps for HBO and MLB.TV.

The Comcast integration is particularly noteworthy. This is the first time the company’s on-demand service has been made available on a console, and it suggests that the cable giant realizes that it no longer rules your living room. Now, your cable subscription will sit alongside every other online service on your Xbox—it’s just another app in an endless stream of entertainment choices.

I agree with Manjoo that what Microsoft has done with Xbox has been phenomenal and the rumors that Microsoft is releasing a slimmed down version of the console to compete at AppleTV’s $99 price point is intriguing. Still, I don’t trust Microsoft when it comes to making an effortless user experience.

The reality is, people won’t want to pay for cable and Internet service. Nobody wants to pay for Comcast cable and watch it through the Xbox as an app. That just sounds stupid and cumbersome.

In an ideal world, there would be a digital media box connected to the Internet that one could plug into their TV with HDMI and plug speakers out of for better sound. It boots up fast, maybe has a built-in TV tuner for broadcast channels, it features some sort of cloud integration or networking ability so one could effortlessly access their music/movie/video library stored on another computer. That way you wouldn’t really need a huge hard-drive.

All other non-broadcast channels or content offerings like Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, AMC, USA, HBO, MLB, NFL, etc. would just be subscription-based apps. You want to watch Bravo or the Food Network? No problem just download their app.

Maybe throw in a web browser and some gaming capabilities and you’d be all set. Tie all of that together through a single portal like iTunes to make it easy to pay for. What’s so hard about delivering something like that or what else would you need/want?

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