New Xbox a Step Toward Integration of Linear TV and OTT
By Paul Sweeting
Lots to unpack from today’s unveiling of the new Xbox console, officially called the Xbox One (see for an overview). Of particular note for M&E execs, however, is the inclusion of an “HDMI In” port that will allow the new console to be daisy-chained with a cable or satellite set-top box.
The setup will allow users to control some aspects of their linear TV service through the Xbox using Microsoft’s interface, including voice and gesture control. It also allows for easy switching between linear channels and over-the-top channels (via Xbox Live).
To be sure, the HDMI daisy-chain is a workaround. Microsoft no doubt would prefer that the Xbox One be capable of integrating directly with any pay-TV service without first have to make deals with each individual pay-TV provider. Currently, however, there is no standardized interface that would allow for that (the FCC has been trying for years to push the industry to adopt a standard, open gateway to allow plug-and-play integration between pay-TV services and retail set-tops but so far without success). So the HDMI daisy-chain hack is the next best thing.
Still, it marks an important milestone toward the inevitable integration of linear and on-demand TV in a single interface on a single set-top box. Not incidentally, it also leaves Microsoft in a position to collect extremely rich data on individual consumer viewing across platforms and across service providers. Over time, that data could become more valuable than any of the games Microsoft or others publish for the console.
Also of note, the new console includes a Blu-ray Disc drive, as rumored. Given Microsoft’s long championing of HD-DVD back in the day, and its fierce early resistance to industry adoption of Blu-ray (and in particularly the BD Plus DRM system), including a BD drive in the new Xbox will certainly attract some headlines. But it was an inevitable and unavoidable step for a device being positioned as an all-in-one home entertainment box.
Still, Microsoft will certainly sell tens of millions of the new console, which will mean tens of millions of new Blu-ray players in the market.