Once upon a time, the consensus was that the Xbox 360 was Microsoft's way into your living room to take over your media world. With a recent CES-based announcement, SPOnG is no longer certain if that much energy is being expended within the company in relation to the 360's invasion.
You see, Microsoft has - once again - announced that it is teaming up with BT, which already offers its BT Vision service through a set-top box, to provide an Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) service through the Xbox 360 by "the middle of 2008".
Okay, however, during last
year's CES, Gates mentioned that IPTV was coming to the UK in partnership with BT during 2007.
In fact, a comparison between this year's announcement and last year's announcement shows that one paragraph is repeated word-for-word... almost. At least this year's announcement slots in a UK-focused carrot in the form of a Soccer-ball game.
2008's version: “Xbox LIVE, the largest online social network in the living room, will be seamlessly integrated into the experience, providing consumers with a wide range of community-based features, such as voice chat, sending and receiving text and voice messages, and accessing Xbox LIVE Marketplace, all while watching TV. For example, while a TV viewer is enjoying his favourite football game, he can receive a message from a friend inviting him to join a voice chat, or they could play a game of their own with EA SPORTS 'FIFA Soccer
The exact same passage appeared last year, but with “Madden NFL 07
” in place of “FIFA Soccer
”. You can see for yourself here
. Very efficient. Very multi-cultural. Although it does suggest to us that by not preparing an entirely fresh media onslaught, Microsoft might not be taking the whole 'Trojan horse of multimedia' thing as seriously as everybody had previously expected.
The announcement was made during Bill Gates' keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas - with the president of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division, Robbie Bach, joining him on stage.
Rounding out his keynote, Gates said, "The final announcement, last year we talked about the 360 being an STB (Set Top Box) - this year we're excited to announce that BT will be the first to provide that capability. Buy a 360 and use it as an STB for your TV."
More details were forthcoming from Microsoft, with a written announcement telling us that the service will be available to anyone with a BT Broadband connection and an Xbox 360. The partnership will give "instant access to hundreds of movies and thousands of hours of sporting events, television programming, music videos and other digital content, such as BT Vision Sport’s 242 'near-live' FA Premier League football matches”, according to Microsoft.
BT Vision already makes use of Microsoft's Mediaroom Internet Protocol TV technology.
We're told that the service will be “seamlessly integrated” into Xbox Live, with users being able to access the service's community features and Xbox Live Marketplace while watching TV.
“Last year at CES, we announced Xbox 360 on Microsoft Mediaroom as a powerful platform capable of enabling new entertainment experiences for consumers, and we are pleased to team with BT to bring this service to market”, said Enrique Rodriguez, corporate vice president of the Connected Television Division at Microsoft. “Together we are enabling BT Vision customers to be the first in the world to enjoy this next-generation TV and gaming entertainment experience.”
The other corporo-quote comes from the CEO of BT Vision, Dan Marks. “For the first time consumers in the UK will be able to experience the advantages of an advanced TV service together with the benefits of next-generation gaming”, he said. “Our aim is to provide BT Vision on multiple platforms — giving customers greater convenience, control and flexibility over what they watch, when they watch and how they watch TV. It also means that we are able to potentially expand our BT Vision customer base by tapping into the popularity of Xbox 360.”
So, why has it taken a year from announcement to... well, basically another announcement? Is IPTV really that important to Microsoft via the Xbox 360? We're exploring right now.