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.