CES 2011 – LAS VEGAS. Microsoft is expanding the over-the-top qualities of the Xbox Live console with the addition of Kinnect for Netflix and Hulu in the US market, said Steve Ballmer during his opening keynote speech at the CES in Las Vegas.
Ballmer’s speech was a bit of a disappointment after speculation in the US press that Microsoft would enter the connected TV market in a big, possibly game-changing way, while at the same time taking on both cablers and other OTT solutions from the likes of Apple and Google.
As part of the keynote, Ron Forbes from Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft demonstrated the new features, which already include the Zune Video Marketplace. Available in 20 countries, it offers movies in full 1080p with 5.1 surround sound.
“Two years ago Xbox was the first console to bring Netflix to the living room,” said Forbes. ” We continue to innovate. Tonight I’m pleased to announce that this spring we are bringing the magic of Kinect to Netflix. Making Xbox the only place to experience thousands of movies and TV shows from Netflix, controller-free, in the living room, on the biggest screen in your home, but what about Hulu? Tonight we are also announcing that we are bringing the controller-free Hulu Plus subscription service to Xbox LIVE in the U.S. later this spring.”
With regards to sports, Forbes said: “In November we launched an exclusive partnership with ESPN on Xbox LIVE. I can watch over 3,500 live and on-demand sporting events from ESPN3.com, plus highlights from ESPN.com, which includes the best in sports, from college football, college basketball, the NBA, and international soccer, including the Premier League.”
Although these features and content deals are ‘nice to have’, they do not exactly provide the ammunition to take on Google TV and/or Apple TV. These are moves in the direction of making the Xbox a good source for over-the-top content, but only in a limited way. Of course, the OTT functionality comes on top of the gaming experience for which most people buy the device – much as Sony does with their PlaySation 3. And people do not have to buy another box, as is the case with Google TV, Apple TV and boxes such as Roku.