Microsoft is getting bullish on Xbox 360 services. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they have managed to sell 2.5 million Kinects, or maybe they just smell a weakness in Google TV. The networks have pulled out one by one, while well-regarded reviewers the Internet over have laid into the hardware. Whatever the cause, Redmond has apparently decided that an online TV subscription service is one thing they have a chance of bringing up against Google and Apple and coming out on top.
Microsoft's service was tipped to Reuters by "two people familiar with the plans". No hard details exist yet, but 'Xbox TV' may work as a "virtual cable operator". There could be a monthly fee to stream ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, ESPN and/or CNN over your console. Xbox TV may also act as sort of an 'improved cable' service, that provides cable subscribers with the ability to message friends and make notes on social media sites about favorite shows. Microsoft could also just offer an assortment of bundled show 'packages' geared towards kids, family, sports, or whatever your entertainment poison is.
We're still in the early days of planning for Xbox TV. It may not see the light of day for another 12 months, which would mean a big announcement in or around E3 2011. Basically, it sounds like Redmond's plan here is to avoid the same conflicts Google has run headlong into. If Microsoft builds their service around the consent and desires of the big networks, they may be able to grab content no one else can. Or they could end up handicapped by the fact that none of the networks are willing to try anything new enough to be scary. I'm not sure how Xbox TV would stack up against Apple TV, which has quite a good selection, reasonable prices and buy-in from quite a few industry bigwigs already.
I see the Kinect playing a big roll in this service's success. Remote / mouse / peripheral free TV browsing is something no other service can brag. If television is the lazy man's medium (and it is) appealing to the giant sloth in us all isn't a bad way to push a product. Then again...
Sony has sold 4.1 million Moves in the last 25 days. I'll admit, I wasn't impressed when I tried this thing at E3 but worldwide consumers are eating it up. And PlayStation's rivalry with Xbox means that a competing 'PlayStation TV' option is very possible. Microsoft will be able to provide mobile TV via their family of WP7 devices, while Sony has Ericsson smartphones and a PlayStation Phone that could hit as early as December. Vastly expanded PlayStation media offerings (sweetened by a few network deals) could put the PS3 in a good position to compete. Sure, using a Move isn't quite as nice as no controller, but it's better than the billion-buttoned behemoth Google TV remote.