Tue, Dec 06, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Microsoft rolls out new TV platform for Xbox users

TV ON DEMAND:Much of the new platform’s content requires Xbox Live gold membership, as well as additional subscriptions for services such as Netflix

AP, LOS ANGELES

Microsoft Corp is rolling out a new interface for its Xbox game console users — one that allows you to navigate through music, movies, TV shows and games with the wave of your hand or the sound of your voice.

The interface, first demonstrated by CEO Steve Ballmer in September, is set up similarly to Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system with a series of large panes showing content options.

Xbox owners with the Kinect motion controller can swipe through screens by waving their hand in the air. It also responds to direct voice commands and incorporates Microsoft’s search engine, Bing. Windows smartphone users can control what to watch or hear by tapping on their portable devices.

DOWNLOADABLE

The interface will be available to Xbox users connected to the Internet via a download today.

In a demonstration for reporters, a Microsoft employee demonstrated how saying, clearly: “Xbox. Bing. Iron Man,” brought up a selection of movies, TV shows, games and soundtracks related to the title.

Saying “Xbox. Show. Movies,” brought up places to rent or buy the movie, including Microsoft’s Zune store, Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s Vudu, Netflix or pay TV channel Epix.

Separate subscriptions are required for services such as Netflix, and much of the content also requires being a gold member of Xbox Live, a connected Internet service that costs US$60 a year.

PARTNERSHIPS

Microsoft expects to have pay TV channel partners, including those supplied by Verizon FiOS. There will be no broadcast partners, so fans of the ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox networks will continue to rely on standard set-top boxes or digital rabbit ear antennas for that content.

Microsoft says 57 million Xbox units had been sold around the world and more than 35 million users had logged on to its Xbox Live service at least once in the last three months. It did not say how many Xbox Live users are paying gold members.

Ross Honey, general manager of Xbox Live entertainment and advertising, said about 40 content partners were expected for the platform. Available apps from those partners will roll out gradually.

Other partners include the British Broadcasting Co, Hulu Plus, Walt Disney Co’s online ESPN3 service, Ultimate Fighting Championship, Google Inc’s YouTube and cable giant Comcast Corp’s Xfinity on-demand subscription service.

Many of the offerings require separate pay TV subscriptions or one-time payments. Honey said that many deals with content providers are still in the works.

“As with any new technology that comes with the entertainment industry, it takes time,” he said. “What we have here is a start.”

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