As part of its CES announcements, Microsoft has announced plans to bring Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) to its Xbox 360 gaming system. As envisioned, the technology with enable Xbox 360 owners to tune into television content streamed to their consoles via the Internet and home broadband connections, and integrate with other IP-based services on the Xbox 360 like instant messaging, voice and text chat, and even gaming.
"Both Xbox 360 and Microsoft TV IPTV Edition by themselves deliver unique and exciting entertainment experiences today, but IPTV on Xbox 360 is truly a solution that is greater than the sum of its parts and will enable even more exciting experiences to delight consumers, service providers, content providers and game developers alike," said Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division. "By integrating these industry-leading solutions, we are delivering on our promise to drive innovation and enable new connected entertainment experiences for consumers in a way that only Microsoft can."
The XBox 360’s IPTV capabilities will be built on the existing Microsoft TV IPTV Edition platform, which Microsoft claims will offer capabilities for a rich on-screen interface on the Xbox 360, with advanced features like channel zapping, video-on-demand, digital video recording, and high-definition television programming—Microsoft’s announcement is essentially that it intends to make the Xbox 360 into a client for its already-underway IPTV efforts, similar to other set-top-box solutions. Unlike the video download service offered via Xbox Live, Microsoft will not be serving as a content provider for IPTV services to the Xbox 360. Instead, subscribers will have to subscribe to an ISP or other compatible IPTV service which supplies compatible programming. Microsoft’s current partners for IPTV are telecommunications companies, not studios or television distributors: AT&T, Deutsche Telecom, British Telecom, C-Com, and Swisscom are already on board, and already deploying Microsoft’s IPTV service using set-top boxes.
Timetables for IPTV services on the Xbox 360 haven’t been released, but Microsoft says it expects the service to be functional in time for the end-of-year holiday season in 2007. Take a deep breath now if you plan to hold it.