Can Microsoft Outdo Apple's Siri?

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is coming out with a TV. Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) is trying to beat Cupertino to the punch. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is preparing for a living-room war. Enter Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) .

The Redmond giant quietly set the stage a few months ago by bringing a gaggle of Verizon FiOS channels to the Xbox 360 alongside content partners such as Comcast and Time Warner. Microsoft has now gone official with its plans with a press release ambitiously titled "The Future of TV Begins Now on Xbox 360."

Source: Microsoft press release.

Unsurprisingly, the push will include Siri-esque voice-control through the Kinect. Microsoft hopes to leverage its existing installed base of more than 57 million people and converting the Xbox into a one-stop shop for content and entertainment. While Mr. Softy's initiative isn't new, it's becoming fleshed out.

The press release compiles all the content partners that Microsoft has been gathering recently, including on-demand services such as Hulu, Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) , and Amazon.com's "Netflix of Europe," LOVEFiLM. Those services will be available starting tomorrow, along with Disney's ESPN.

Later this month, Xbox owners can look forward to other live TV services such as Verizon FiOS. YouTube is naturally a requisite, while Wal-Mart's Vudu and Sony's Crackle both made the cut. Comcast Xfinity on Demand is in store for early 2012, as is the U.K.'s BBC and Time Warner's HBO.

The important thing to consider is whom Microsoft is actually coming after. The company isn't trying to promote any cord-cutting. For example, to get FiOS channels, customers must subscribe to both FiOS TV and Internet service along with Xbox Live Gold. The content partners will ensure that the service is a complement rather than a substitute.

Netflix is already popular on game consoles, with half of subscribers connecting through consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, so Netflix has nothing to worry about here.

So who stands to lose? Existing set-top box providers such as Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) and Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) may soon find their dusty units obsolete. You also have smaller Web-based boxes such as the Roku and current Apple TV that become less compelling.

Fellow fool Patrick Martin is bullish on Mr. Softy's TV aspirations. The most exciting part of the announcement is the promise of Bing-powered voice control, while the rest is simply evolving the Xbox's feature set. When it comes to the task of revolutionizing the interface, experience, and interaction of TVs, I still think that's a job for Apple.

Add these companies to your Watchlist to see if TV soon sees an evolution or revolution.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Amazon.com, Walt Disney, and Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Microsoft, Wal-Mart Stores, Cisco Systems, and Apple and has created a bull call spread position on Cisco Systems. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Walt Disney, Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Google, Wal-Mart Stores, Netflix, and Amazon.com, creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores, and creating bull call spread positions in Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (5)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 05, 2011, at 9:19 PM, xmmj wrote:

    This article has practically nothing to do with voice control - Change the title

  • Report this Comment On December 05, 2011, at 9:57 PM, techy46 wrote:

    Microsoft didn't acquire Tell Me several years ago to do nothing with it. MS has been incrediably successful at integrating backoffice, cloud, data, development, email and other functions into enterprise servers. They will now do the same for consumers with entertainment, email, TV, voice and other medias and the Xbox home server.

  • Report this Comment On December 06, 2011, at 11:58 AM, tgnytg wrote:

    Microsoft, along with most other companies will end up as also-rans in this market. Only one, or at most a couple of, companies will rule the video streaming business, and that won't happen for 10-15 years.

    Microsoft's major selling point is voice control? But you already need an Xbox, Kinect, and an Xbox Live Gold subscription to use it? They are marketing streaming video entertainment to a market who bought their gear for an entirely different reason - gaming? Between the cost of the hardware and the multiple monthly service charges, why is there a compelling need for this service? What could possibly go wrong with this plan!?

    Microsoft's record of being late to the dance doesn't bode well for them to be a contender in streaming video. Google, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, WalMart, Sony, the TV networks, some ISPs, and all of the cable providers are already established in this market.

    Sounds like Zune, Kin, Windows Mobile, a stable OS, etc. Late-to-market deja vu all over again.

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