If these images are indeed proof of premature tweaks to the console (which still shows an older dashboard version number), one can speculate that IPTV may be introduced with this Fall’s dashboard update. We’ve already asked Microsoft to comment, but if they treat this anything like the Arcade SKU, we can expect them to deny it until well after everybody’s started watching TV on their consoles.
The Redmond company is not confirming the rumors, although it has been reported that a Microsoft XNA framework developer may have unintentionally confirmed the HDMI functionality in a company forum for the technology.
Still missing from the rumored unit is a built-in HD DVD drive, say sources. While the company has said it plans to eventually build the technology into its consoles, Microsoft is apparently waiting for production costs to come down before it does so.
“It is interesting that Microsoft hasn’t added the HD DVD drive as a permanent feature,” Dean Takahashi of the San Jose Mecury News wrote of the news. “The format war with Blu-ray is still going on, and that drive would add considerable cost.”
The motherboard of the new Xbox 360 would also be redesigned to take advantage of new 65-nanometer technologies, which would also bring down the manufacturing costs of the console. This could open up the door for a price cut before the holidays, and put pressure on rivals Nintendo and Sony.
Analysts say it is unclear whether or not the other consoles would see a price cut immediately as a result of the new model’s unveiling. However, the addition of IPTV would give the Xbox 360 an edge over the PlayStation 3, which does not have the capability but costs more.
It seems that there’s been a lot of confusion over what exactly IPTV on the Xbox 360 is bringing to the table, and moreover, what it’ll take to bring it to your table. So I sat down with Microsoft to get a demo and clear up a lot of the confusion that’s been going on since the initial announcement here at CES. First off, the service will be available to all 16 of its current IPTV customers, such as AT&T, by the end of the year, as it is essentially the same as the standard Microsoft IPTV software, it’s simply running on a 360. Both deploying the service AND the available content is up to the providers, however, and who will be rolling out the service is still to be determined. No one’s confirmed yet, in other words. Continued with a gallery and videos after the jump…
It’s ultimately available to any service provider that offers Microsoft IPTV now or in the future, though. Interestingly, one option service providers may explore in getting customers to buy into the IPTV program is to lease out the 360 like a cable box, or they can follow a cell phone model, where you buy a 360 from the service provider at a subsidized price bundled with IPTV. Or, if you already have a 360, you can download the software and go from there, though this obviously requires a hard drive.
As all of the video decoding is done by software, rather than by a hardware tuner, you will be able to record HD shows (DVR and VOD capabilities are there, in other words, as long as your provider offers them) while playing a game. Moreover, due to the software decoding, the number of streams able to be recorded simultaneously is essentially a matter of bandwidth, so it’s theoretically possible to record multiple streams while gaming to boot. The priority now, however, is simply making sure that recording an HD stream while playing a game works flawlessly — the other is extra, so we’ll get exact numbers closer to launch.
So where are you going to put all of those shows, as well as the IPTV software itself? Like Michael at Kotaku, I couldn’t get a confirmation of the upcoming higher capacity drives, simply that the all 360s are “designed now” to add an HD. Asking about hot swapping drives, supposing a “theoretical” higher capacity one existed, got a reply of “stay tuned.” The rep added, however, that the digital compression used will allow HD content to fit in half the space it typically uses on a traditional cable set up and that the IPTV client software itself “isn’t very big.”
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Again, this isn’t official information from Microsoft, but is information Doug received from Microsoft’s IPTV booth at CES. Hopefully things will change before the roll-out, because the whole Xbox 360 IPTV service isn’t sounding very good. A separate box? A specific cable and ISP provider? Do you meet the supposed requirements for the Xbox IPTV roll-out and would you be willing to make the necessary changes to get it?
You’ve watched or listened to the keynote, checked out the interface screenshots, watched the video, or simply heard about it through one of the 250+ news organizations that have already covered Microsoft’s plans to add IPTV capability to the Xbox 360 in time for consumermas 2007.
What might this mean for the console wars? How will this change the game? We’re not nearly as smart or creative as our collected readership (after all, Time made YOU the person of the year), so rather than rack our brains, we’ll sift through yours and publish the best responses in a subsequent post.
Task: in your pithy best, share how you believe that this announcement might change the console war now underway, if at all.
Let’s get a couple obvious ones out of the way first:
- A larger hard drive is assured. Ain’t no DVR going on with a measly 20GB hard drive.
- Perhaps content partners might offer free Xbox 360s to consumers who purchase multi-month (or multi-year) IPTV service contracts, in much the same way that mobile phone service providers offer highly subsidized phones for customers who sign a one- or two-year service agreement.
- Sony announces intent to match this functionality, but does as well copying Xbox IPTV as they’ve done copying Xbox Live.
For now, you can try out the beta version of the MyTVPal IMX player by filling in a bit of mildly intrusive registration information, downloading and installing it. We snagged the IMX player and took it for a spin, and grabbed a screen shot for you. What did we think of this new service?
Looking over the company’s site, its video quality and the meager content is a bit like gazing at a genius newborn baby squalling and crying in its crib and pooping all over himself. The 720p clips are gloriously sharp and rich-looking even when scaled up full-screen on our 1920×1200 PC display, but are plagued by frustrating stoppage every 10 to 15 seconds, with the word “transmitting” superimposed on top (see graphic below).
It just couldn’t keep up, and that was using our 7Mb premium broadband service here at the Midwest Test Facility. It’s a tease to see high-quality video for a few seconds and have it suddenly taken away over and over. Aside from being a demo of great potential, it was unusable.
Then there’s the paucity of offerings, the best of which are short clips, demos, trailers and musty old Beverly Hillbillies episodes. It’s hardly an auspicious beginning as far as content is concerned. Matrixstream officials told us a few months ago they hope individuals and production entities will be signing up to distribute their content on this channel, but from what we can see, that hasn’t happened yet.
Even with its halting playback and lack of content, this is still an impressive feat to see this H.264 video streaming onto a PC, serving up HDTV at better quality than we’ve ever seen over an Internet connection. It’s a quick glance at the clarity of HDTV that will be coming down the pipes of the future. With a good fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connection and that upcoming setup box, this will be some disruptive technology. Meanwhile, you might want to try downloading the player and taking a look at this quality for yourself.
Download MyTVPal: Free High Definition TV Over the Internet [Matrixstream]