Xbox Live Movies Isn't iTunes Yet

Microsoft today announced that Xbox Live will provide movies and TV shows for download. Predictably, this is being compared to the iTunes store, but that's just because of the mechanism. For the moment though, the experience for the consumer looks like a streamlined pay-per-view.

On the iTunes side, we have a computer interface. A mouse, keyboard, large hard drive, and so on that make traversing and storing thousands of titles practical. On the Xbox side, we have a game controller, a 20GB hard drive, a low-ish resolution display, and no keyboard.

(I don't point out the resolution for playback reasons, but screen space to navigate the store.)

Also, the content has been — according to Red Herring — hand-picked for Xbox demographics. That is, it's not the mass-market approach that Apple aims at. It's for 18-35 males and younger children. This might be a great approach for Xbox, but it's much different than iTunes.

The networks are basically hoping to keep people in front of their TVs. Instead of betting on them shutting off the Xbox and switching back to broadcast, they're going to try to get them while still in the Xbox UI.

There's also talk about some of the content being HD, but it's not clear to me how all of that's going to work. Microsoft isn't providing faster broadband, and then there's the issue of where to put all of that content once it's downloaded.

Of course, this might all just be Microsoft's attempt to create a jumping off point for a more generalized service, or maybe they're eyeing Sony more than Apple. That would be something, wouldn't it? Microsoft carving out a niche to avoid Apple?

In any case, one nice thing is it sounds like Microsoft will allow customers to re-download content they've purchased.
Design Element
Xbox Live Movies Isn't iTunes Yet
Posted Nov 7, 2006 — 6 comments below


Joachim Bengtsson — Nov 07, 06 2330

All of those things -- no mouse, no keyboard, no computer interface, and just a plain TV -- sounds to me to be things in favor of XBox, things that make the experience nicer. You don't want to watch two hour content on a computer screen. Heck, I even play WWDC keynotes on the TV :P (and it's not even a good tv!)

Scott Stevenson — Nov 07, 06 2331 Scotty the Leopard

sounds to me to be things in favor of XBox, things that make the experience nicer

For the viewing process, yes, but not for tracking down the actual content.

You don't want to watch two hour content on a computer screen

Depends on the size of the computer screen and if you have a remote. I'm not suggesting you sit at the desk and watch a movie on a 17 inch display.

Chris Cambron — Nov 08, 06 2333

My understanding of the way iTV will work is that the user will control movies in much the same way that front row works now - only over the TV rather than over the computer. I also believe that the user will be able to purchase movies over the TV. In addition, I also believe that, ultimately, the user will be able to pull video, music, and photo content off of any computer on their local network.

Blain — Nov 08, 06 2346

I was going to wager that the service will work with Zunes, but the Zune doesn't offer video playback? If not, that's a real missed oppurtunity.

Dollars to donuts that the iTv will allow for direct hookup and playback from an ipod (Thus the USB ports in back). That's going to be a major advantage.

Were the Zune able to support video, it could serve as the storage for Xbox core systems, which don't have hard drives, and thus, wouldn't be able to play.

The only other solution, but this requires more integration than the standard MS plays, would be for cores or even all xboxes to delegate downloading to a PC, only sending out the request, and have the PC in the back room do the heavy lifting while the xbox continues to either browse or play games.

This could also combat the 'shop via controller' arguement, if the user also could buy via pc as well. As it is, I do believe the xbox allows for streaming video from PCs.

Again, there is an actual oppurtunity, and could be even a threat to the iTunes setup, if MS was nimble and played its cards right. However, my money is on fumbled implementation, broken promises, and vapor announcements.

Scott Stevenson — Nov 08, 06 2348 Scotty the Leopard

but the Zune doesn't offer video playback?

It does.

This could also combat the 'shop via controller' arguement, if the user also could buy via pc as well.

I agree, but this is not what they seem to have.

Again, there is an actual oppurtunity, and could be even a threat to the iTunes setup

There's no question the mechanisms are there, it just depends on how things play out.

Michael — Nov 14, 06 2400

You can stream video/music/pictures from the Zune to the Xbox 360. I implemented part of it.

You can also stream video/music/pictures from an attached USB mass storage device, a disc inserted into the console, or a networked PC (including TwonkyVision and Connect360 for Linux and Mac respectively -- networked streaming just uses UPnP -- and both of these are adding streaming video support now that Microsoft added it.)

There are many forces swirling around in the digital entertainment maelstrom. DRM is one -- stuff like FairPlay and Macrovision and HDCP can restrict how you move content around and what you can do with it. Bandwidth is another -- not just WAN but also wireless LAN; we've still got a ways to go before you can stream multiple simultaneous HD video streams in real-time. Codecs are yet another -- so many container formats and stream encodings, with newer/better/different ones coming out every year. Etc.

You know that Apple and Microsoft and all the other companies in this space work on this stuff for years before it hits the street. So the features you're seeing now were imagined into being a short while ago, and more ideas have already been thought of and are being developed now for the future; and yet more things are being dreamt of now. We live in interesting times, and it's going to be fun to watch where all this technology goes (pun intended).


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