Microsoft’s showing at E3 2009 was dominated by its new motion-sensing device. But the company also announced some innovation in the online video market, including the unveiling of a new Zune video marketplace capable of streaming 1080p full-HD quality content for the Xbox 360 console.
I’ve been banging on for a while now about the importance of video games consoles in getting online video into the living room. That’s because I firmly believe these Internet-connected devices are key to getting quality streaming content onto people’s televisions rather than only on computers as it generally is at the moment.
We’ve already seen a fair few advances in this area. Both the Wii and PS3 are able to provide users with access to Web-based television services such as the BBC iPlayer, Joost, and Hulu. While the Xbox 360, which has no Web browser capability, has Netflix and now the Sky Player providing both downloadable and live streaming video.
Microsoft At E3 2009
At E3 2009, this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo held in Los Angeles, Microsoft unveiled even bigger and more ambitious plans for online video on the Xbox 360, which are detailed below. What’s clear is that Microsoft realizes the potential for online video and has also realized that in the Xbox 360 it has a ready-made delivery system installed in millions of homes around the world.
The Xbox 360 video service will be rebranded as the Zune video marketplace. Streaming content will now be available in 18 countries up from 8, including the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, Germany, and Australia. TV shows and movie will now be available instantly rather than the current system of queue and view.
Full HD On Xbox 360
Xbox 360 video is already available in 720p high-definition but this is being pushed to 1080p full high-definition. Video playback will begin at low bitrates in order to allow for instant viewing but will soon ramp up to 1080p with 5.1 audio. Microsoft claims this new method of video delivery will be as close to the “disc in the drive” experience as is possible over the Internet.
Microsoft’s hook-up with BSkyB to bring the Sky Player to the Xbox 360 in the UK and Ireland was confirmed. And the feature mentioned alongside that which allows for social viewing of sports is to be rolled-out for other content in other territories as well. So a bunch of Xbox 360 friends will be able to watch a movie together using a virtual theater.
These are exciting times for console owners because they are getting treated as the innovators and early-adopters of online video coming to the living room. Microsoft, for once, is actually leading the charge rather than following in other’s footsteps. Whether Sony and Nintendo can now keep up remains to be seen.