At our Xbox 360 meeting at CES we got to sit down with Chris Satchell and talk about what Microsoft had up their sleeve for their console. He started out by covering all of the stuff at the CES Keynote (our invite must have gotten lost in the mail). Microsoft has sold over 10 million Xbox 360’s and half of those purchases were made by new customers to the marketplace. Microsoft also feels that they have a killer lineup for the rest of the year with Mass Effect
, Halo 3
, and Grand Theft Auto IV
appearing on the console this year. The Xbox 360 is the only place where you will be able to play Halo 3
and GTA IV
and they feel that’s a solid combination (and it is hard to disagree with them).
The big focus for the 360 right now is the newly announced Xbox 360 IPTV initiative. The initiative will allow Xbox 360 owners with certain cable companies to stream TV through their Xbox 360. It should be noted that this will not be an update that’s available to everyone around the world but rather a special deal that you will have to get through your internet provider. He pointed out that with cable companies getting into the phone business, phone companies are going to try and get into the cable business and that IPTV is the way they are going to do so.
Chris walked us through the IPTV demo and the user interface was very slick and modern. The IPTV 360’s will also act as a DVR which means that if you’re watching TV and a buddy wants to play Gears of War you will be able to pause the television, frag for a bit and then jump back to the television program you were watching. It’s a very cool concept and it looks like they could pull it off.
We pushed Chris about the increased storage requirements for a DVR as a 20 GB drive (well 13 GB after all the Xbox 360 system information) isn’t really that big and he said that it would be enough. The real challenge he thinks is getting people to get people past the concept of owning physical media and into owning the rights to things. This way you would be able to re-download something you had the rights to, eliminating the storage need. I asked about allowing users to setup downloads remotely using either Xbox.com or their phone so that you could set something up to download and have it ready when you got home and he mentioned that was something they were looking at.
It’s hard not to be interested in Microsoft’s direction with the Xbox 360 and their approach to using it as a media center. It’s miles better than what Apple is offering with AppleTV albeit at $100 more. Then again for that $100 you get to stream at 1080i and play high definition games. Then again you don’t get the self-fellating smugness of owning an Apple device.
The following is pure speculation on my part based on our conversation with Chris, talking to other Xbox community members, and checking out other rumors around the internet. The real question is what to make of the rumors of the “Zephyr” device that broke right before E3, the ones for a new Xbox 360 with a larger hard drive and HDMI cable. Piecing bits of conversations together it’s hard not to imagine that the device is going to be the IPTV Xbox 360 that cable provider’s offer to their customers. It may or may not make its way to standard retail but at a minimum I imagine we’ll at least see larger hard drives offered at retail by the end of the year.