For a device that lives and breathes on its connection to the Internet, it’s pretty impressive that the Xbox 360 has gone seven years without a web browser. Think about it. You can download movies, music, games, watch college basketball on ESPN, watch Major League Baseball, Game of Thrones through HBO, but if you want to look up somebody’s address in Google Maps, well, you’re out of luck. Even the Wii can do that, and that little box is basically a box of tissues with a disc drive in it. Surprise, surprise! Looks like Microsoft is bringing its long-time ruler of the Web, Internet Explorer, to an Xbox near you.
The Verge reported on Thursday that sources in the know point to a modified version of Internet Explorer 9 coming to the Xbox 360. How will it be modified? Why, it will be optimized for Kinect motion control of course! Gestures and voice commands won’t be mandatory for using the Xbox’s version of IE, but it will be optimized for Kinect inputs. Considering how the Bing search engine was integrated into the Xbox 360 and Kinect, it makes perfect sense that IE will be as well.
No word on when IE for Xbox 360 will be available, but an official announcement at E3 seems like a good bet.
There’s another very good reason Microsoft would bring Internet Explorer to the Xbox 360: market share. While Internet Explorer remains the most widely used web browser in the world, with almost 26% of browser usage going on Microsoft’s software, that share is a mere fraction of what it used to be. Google’s Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox, and Apple’s Safari have all eaten away at Internet Explorer’s dominance over the past five years. Google is close to over taking Microsoft, with 25% of global browsing, almost 22% going to Firefox, and 14% going to Safari. Google even double dips in the browser race, with its Android browser taking up an additional 3% of the market.
There are 66 million Xbox 360s in peoples homes, and while it’s unlikely they will start browsing the Web on their TV the majority of the time, having Internet Explorer on the platform can at least recapture some lost mindshare for Microsoft. Internet Explorer used to account for more than 70% of all Web browsing. It never brought in huge revenue for Microsoft, but it was indicative of the company’s reach. Xbox 360 could get some of that reach back.