Monday, December 5, 2011

Can The Xbox Replace The Cable Box?

It seems today that every TV needs some type of box next to it to make it function better. In the early days, that box controlled the antenna which tried to tune in the best reception possible. Since then, the cable box has been the standard device to deliver a quantity of channels. But truthfully, the cable box has improved little in the eyes of the consumer and its clunky guide and search has hurt it. So is the Xbox the next box to take over our TV viewing?

"Beginning on Tuesday and continuing through the month, Microsoft will give a face-lift to its Xbox Live online entertainment service that will allow subscribers to watch a wide array of mainstream television programming from the Xbox 360 console." So if you subscribe to Xbox Live for its gaming interface, you can begin to choose whether you want to watch programming through its box or your cable box. Since Xbox requires an internet connection and owners likely also have a cable subscription, it may simply be redundant. What may sway users from using one device to another is in its access to guide and search. "Xbox Live users will be able to search for shows using voice commands and hand gestures, if they also have the popular Kinect peripheral for the Xbox."

Voice control via Siri is likely the next big news from Apple although it is not yet clear whether it will be in their existing Apple TV device or a newly manufactured TV set. Still where that programming comes from and how much is readily available is a big if.

In both the Apple and Xbox world, the missing component is the DVR. Will the Xbox enable shows to be copied for later use? Will Apple add a hard drive for DVR capture in their device? Is DVR still important in an on demand world? Certainly not everything is available on demand and customers still like the idea of ownership. "The Xbox is just one of many devices, including iPads and smartphones, on which cable operators and channels are making their content accessible. TiVo, for one, has announced a string of partnerships with cable operators to make its digital video recorder available to their customers. Unlike the Xbox, TiVo users get full access to all of the offerings of TiVo’s cable partners, Mr. Rogers, TiVo’s chief executive, said." But what if TiVo struck a deal to put its software in every Xbox.

In our household, the Xbox and cable box serve two different uses. The Xbox is playing video games and online chats with friends playing at the same time. The cable box for sit back viewing. While integrating the two boxes reduces the number of connections in the back of the TV set, they clearly have two different uses. And in a big household, two sets allows one to be used for gaming while the other is used for viewing shows. The Apple approach of simplifying search through voice may be more ideal for those just seeking the viewing option.