Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) finally has released details regarding its plans to transform the Xbox 360 game console into the cable television set-top box of the future.
Rumors began swirling about Microsoft’s television ambitions in late 2010. On Sept. 15, CEO Steve Ballmer demonstrated the technology itself, using the Kinect device to voice search for shows to watch. It wasn’t until Wednesday, though, that Microsoft told the world which television companies and cable providers were signed on to provide content and access on the new service. With those in place, it’s clear that Microsoft has more than a shot at establishing a strong television business. It might very well have found a way to finally unify Internet-based streaming video businesses like Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and the traditional cable/satellite television industry.
First, here’s who is on board for the new television service. Cable providers Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) are the first of the service providers to commit. While they won’t be providing unfettered cable access to existing subscribers, they will provide access to their respective IPTV and Xfinity services akin to what’s offered on platforms like Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad. (The short version: Limited cable service access.)
Then there is the fleet of new premium and non-premium television channels that will be available, including other Comcast properties like Syfy, the science fiction television and movie channel, and Time Warner‘s (NYSE:TWX) subscription-based HBO Go service.
At first glance, the new Xbox TV service looks like more of an evolution of existing services on Microsoft’s box than something brand new. The official list of partners on Microsoft’s website is filled with video services like the Xbox version of Disney‘s (NYSE:DIS) ESPN, Netflix and AT&T‘s (NYSE:T) video service. What is remarkable, however, is the willingness of these companies to offer numerous digital services side by side with traditional television channels.