Microsoft calls Xbox 360 update the “Future of TV”

Microsoft this week will roll out a firmware update for the Xbox 360 Video game console which the company is calling the “Future of TV.”

According to the software giant, the updated firmware will usher in a “new era in entertainment” giving Xbox owners “A single box that ties together all the content you want, made easily accessible through a universal, natural, voice-directed search.”

So, is the new firmware really as earth shattering as Microsoft suggests? No, absolutely not. The new firmware adds new features and is a nice enhancement to the Xbox 360 interface but calling it the “Future of TV” is simple hyberbole.

What Xbox 360 users will get, however, is an improved interface, and a number of new video related applications and content partners. Xbox 360 users with Kinect will also get a cool new voice-control interface that let users retrieve content through voice and motion commands.

The new partners and apps, of which their are over 40 , will be unveiled on Tuesday. Unfortunately for Canadians, the number of new providers is quite limited. In addition to being quite limited, the Canadian content is already available through other sources.

New this week to Canada: a revised Netflix app which is hardly new for anyone with an Apple TV or other Netflix enabled device; and a Rogers on Demand app that lets Rogers Cable and Internet customers watch Video on demand (VOD) content currently available through their computer or digital cable set top box.

On the surface, The Rogers on Demand app appears to be a nice add for Rogers customers, who can now watch VOD content without having to buy another cable set top box. That is, until you realize that a $60 a year Xbox Live Gold subscription is also required. So, do you really want to pay an extra $5 a month to watch VOD content through your Xbox 360 when you already have a digital cable set top box connected to your television for that purpose?

Digital Home believes the 57 million Xbox 360 users will appreciate the new Xbox 360 firmware with its  new functionality and new interface but is it really the “Future of TV”?. No, we don’t think so either.

Discuss the new update in Digital Home’s Video Gaming discussion forum.


8 Responses to “Microsoft calls Xbox 360 update the “Future of TV””
  1. Sebastian says:

    The negative undertones in this article were glaringly obvious, and quite disturbing. Perhaps adding a positive twist to the article would have hidden the fact that you have no respect for what MS is trying to accomplish. Is this the future of Television? Yes it absolutely is, if you see it for what it’s not, and that is a plain old over priced receiver that only does one thing.

    I am a gaming enthusiast who does have an Xbox live gold subscription, to play games. So for me the fact that MS is adding all this functionality, as what I see as a bonus, is pretty great and unmatched on any device that is currently sitting under most peoples televisions. So your statement regarding paying the extra $5 a month for VOD completely diminishes what the Xbox 360 is primarily, and that is a video game console. So I think your $5 a month gets you much more than just VOD… Don’t you agree?

    Do they have a long way to go? If their intent is to replace the standard cable company receivers, then yes. However I believe that they have laid some great ground work, that has a lot of potential for the future, and currently offer something that is unmatched by any other device.


    • peter says:

      @Sebastian I couldn’t agree more!!!!

    • GC says:

      Sorry, but Hugh’s assessment is spot on. Adding services that are already available elsewhere makes this nothing more than an minor upgrade to an existing device, not the “Future of TV.” There is nothing groundbreaking here. I’m sure to those people who already own an Xbox 360 these are welcome upgrades that mean they don’t have to spend extra money to gain functionality found elsewhere but this isn’t going to have people lining up outside Best Buy or Future Shop to acquire. This won’t even have people considering the Xbox 360 as an alternative to their cable box unless they fall into that narrow demographic of “gamer.”

    • Niall says:

      I agree with this article. As a Canadian, the functionality of the 360 as a Cable killer has been castrated. No Hulu in Canada, Zune makes you pay $2.99 per episode that I can watch for free with a laptop. Netflix is okay, but the content is too limited. If I could add A&E, FoodTV, CityTV, Global, CBC, CTV… as internet channels or just inside of a 360 browser I could cut the cord, but this MS game console is really just a gaming console and nothing more. PS the new GUI is crap.

  2. Benjamin Rumble says:

    I find Microsoft’s progress on the Xbox as an overall home entertainment machine very interesting.

    For me, who doesn’t watch “live” TV, only DVDs (and since around 3 years ago, digital downloads) and movies, the Xbox sounds like a great alternative to $50/month for cable.
    I’m paying $17 right now for Movie Central on Shaw (plus $30 odd for the basic package) purely to watch Dexter and watched Dexter last night through the Shaw on Demand service. The quality was horrible! Seriously compressed. Netflix ($8/month) looks at least twice as good.

    Additionally on Shaw a video on demand (movie) is $8.
    On Zune on Xbox it’s $6, and only $5/month for the privilege to be able to do this.

    So if you don’t watch sport or news on Cable (perhaps this is a very small % of people) $200 for a box, then $5/month isn’t too bad. If you watch 5 films in a month then you’re paying $35, the same as the basic Shaw package, and no need to be ready on Sunday night at 9pm to catch the broadcast of the film. You can watch it whenever you want.

    As long as you have around 100GB of data per month to play with, it’s a pretty tempting proposition to cancel cable and rely solely on Xbox/Zune/Netflix

  3. schoenbe says:

    I think the author of this article is missing the point: Microsoft is working towards enriching the entertainment ecosystem, and the Xbox is the platform of choice for the future. Integrating additional services is a big deal. Yes, you can watch some content on your PC, but this is the wrong user interface and will always be limited to a relatively small group of people (you don’t want to sit in front of a computer after work, at home). Or you can watch Netflix on Apple TV, but Apple TV is a narrow platform with limited features and lacking the broad approach and multitude of entertainment options that Microsoft is continuing to build into the Xbox. You don’t want different devices litter your home for different entertainment needs. You want a box that does it all. I expect that we will see the Xbox take off as the most appealing digital entertainment platform in the years to come.

    • GC says:

      I think you are missing the point. Microsoft calling this upgrade to the Xbox 360 the “Future of TV” is like Apple adding games to the Apple TV and calling that update the “Future of Gaming.” It’s a minor update, a welcome one for those who own the Xbox, but still minor when compared to what is already available out there.

  4. Kisai says:

    It’s unfortunate that the Xbox Live subscription is required for both Netflix and …. well everything on the Xbox 360. This diminishes it’s ability to be used for these services, though it logically makes sense. You need to be online to use the services anyway. They should be available to non-Gold subscribers because many of these services are very useless as they are.

    I’ve used Netflix in Canada since it was available, it’s useable, but the Xbox Netflix is more useable than the website version (it almost never works on my desktop computer.) But the trade off is that there are no audio controls (see my next issue.) So you can’t choose english-dub, japanese-dub, french-dub when the DVD’s for these had those dubs or subtitles. This is a glaring oversight in Netflix and needs to be rectified to reach more of an audience.

    The Rogers on Demand service suffers from the same problem as Netflix and then some. None of the Rogers on demand videos are HD, and the sluggishness of the app results in “clicking” on stuff that it won’t let you watch because you need a Rogers Cable subscription. Rogers should hide these channels or re-categorize them so that this doesn’t happen. The other glaring problem is that shows like Being Erica on CBC were originally broadcast in HD, but the rogers on demand streaming is SD. I even found programs that were originally broadcast in HD and widescreen, but the rogers streaming version is window-boxed, so not only is it not HD, but it’s even less watchable than the SD channel on cable.

    At this point I’ll call it “Nice try, but I wouldn’t rent movies with this service if the free content demonstrates how poor quality it is.”