Buried amid the flurry of announcements that Microsoft made at the E3 trade show earlier this summer was a quick reference to a coming live TV service called Xbox TV. At the time, the software giant promised it would provide more details later, but as the months have dragged on, precious little has emerged. So, with the 2011 holiday season now officially looming, the obvious question we're all posing is: Does Microsoft still plan to ship this service by the end of the year?
"It's quite obvious that we need to increase the amount of video and TV content available on the Xbox," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at the company's annual Financial Analysts Meeting in Anaheim, California, last week. "And ... live TV is probably the experience that's most central to all of us and is fairly central to the vision of the future of entertainment. This year, we're bringing live television to the Xbox ... You'll be able to watch live TV, video on-demand on Xbox—including news, sports, and your favorite channels—and we can integrate both the navigation and the social platform of Xbox into that overall experience."
Ballmer said that the Xbox TV service would be based on work the company did previously with live TV partners in other parts of the world, including SkyTV in the United Kingdom, Canal Plus in France, and FoxTel in Australia.
My first question, however, targets the phrase "this year." Does that mean "this calendar year," as many assume, or "this fiscal year," which is perhaps more likely? Remember, Microsoft's fiscal year runs from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012. So there's no guarantee that Xbox TV will appear by the end of 2011, until Microsoft firmly states otherwise or simply delivers the service.
Another question is how this service will work in the United States. According to a report in Digiday, Microsoft is currently negotiating with cable providers Comcast and Verizon FIOS to deliver IP-based TV services to the Xbox 360 in the United States. The thought of replacing the 1970s-era set-top boxes that cable providers now use with a modern, elegant Xbox 360 is, of course, almost too good to even contemplate. But Microsoft isn't stopping there: It's also looking at partnering with several TV manufacturers so that its service could be built directly into HDTVs.
Be still my beating heart.