The future of XBOX is apps, on your TV

Microsoft is hailing today’s XBOX dashboard update as “the next generation of TV entertainment”. They might not be first, Google beat them to it a year ago, but they’re certainly right and have a much bigger influence over how people interact with their TVs and media.

Apps on XBOX 360 has been in the works for many years now and Silverlight has been long rumored to be the development framework of choice. Although the announcement of the “Metro” dashboard update at E3 2011 finally cemented the idea in stone with a dedicated “apps” category, it’s actually not the first time Silverlight is on the XBOX.

Before today, many of the interactive ads delivered through the dashboard were already powered by Silverlight. Even though Microsoft has not publically revealed the specifics of the framework that powers XBOX apps, rumors hint at a branch off Silverlight, much like Windows Phone.

It’s obvious the first wave of apps (ex. ABC Australia’s iView above) in the coming months are all video-oriented from content partners like TV networks and online video sharing sites, but there’s nothing to say that will be the limit. A public SDK for third-party developers is not to be a question of if, but when.

Who’s to say there can’t be a Flickr app for browsing gorgeous photos, educational apps for kids, communication apps like Skype and even Kinect-enabled apps like those shown in “The Kinect Effect” ad.

No doubts Apple have similar visions for the app-ification of the TV and Google acting on this with a flawed first attempt, but Microsoft has one huge advantage none of those companies do, 57.6 million devices hooked up to a TV and at least 35 million internet-connected – they don’t have to sell any new hardware.

Downloading a virtual log fire app on the XBOX can’t be that far away.

22 insightful thoughts

  1. Microsoft definitely have the advantage with their XBOX footprint.
    I guess their main competition in the UK is from Digital TV providers like Virgin Media as I don’t see Google or Apple TV taking off here.
    There is another platform called YouView ( which is currently in development that hopes to replace the current FreeView receivers needed by all UK houselholds to watch normal digital TV. That will be available in set-top boxes or integrated TVs from anybody that wants to produce one and has a lot of major backers. However, they are being quite slow to progress from what I can see, not to mention the developer engagement Microsoft already has.

    1. Interesting, what’s the rollout model of YouView? Will it be mandatory, government funding, private purchases?

      1. Private purchase. It’s basically a way to offer over-the-top access, via IPTV, to additional linear TV channels that won’t fit into the Freeview platform (max about 50 channels running concurrently with maximum compression), catch-up services integrated into the regular programme guide (i.e. just search backwards in time in the channel list to find programmes you missed), and additional applications.

        As the UK’s digital switchover – i.e. analogue TV switch-off – is nearing completion, there is support for some less able people to have a box installed, and where necessary an aerial upgrade, or a replacement satellite system where terrestrial transmissions aren’t predicted to reach. This ‘switchover help scheme’ is financed from the BBC licence fee. Compulsory switchover is only politically possible with a large amount of voluntary take-up through private purchase – well, if the government doesn’t want to spend billions on buying everyone a new TV or adapter. Take-up of some form of digital TV was required to be over 50% before the switchover plan could be announced, a threshold reached in 2004.

        Australia’s digital switchover has started, with Mildura, VIC in June 2010, South Australia in December 2010, Victoria in May 2011 and Queensland in December 2011. NSW follows, some areas in June 2012 and others in the second half of the year, then the major metropolitan areas in mid or late 2013. There’s a similar help scheme for the most disadvantaged.

        Freeview is a nearly completely open system which standardises the format of digital TV transmissions. (Manufacturers have to sign a contract to implement DRM in order to receive the tables to decompress the HD programme guide, and be a member of the Digital TV Group to receive the spec, known as D-Book.) That means that anyone is free to innovate, but at the cost that software for catch-up services has to be ported to each different device, and the UI on each box is different. YouView standardises more levels of the software, mandating Linux and DirectFB graphics, and a YouView-provided Platform component, making YouView boxes more interchangeable – more like Windows Phone than Android, and less like the free-for-all of the general phone market.

        YouView might have an advantage over Xbox as the Xbox doesn’t have the BBC’s iPlayer. Microsoft are still insisting that an Xbox Live Gold subscription is required for any on-demand TV services, while the BBC will only provide iPlayer if it can be accessed without any additional charges. It is available on PS3, through Freeview HD and Freesat boxes and TVs with a compatible application, and through Virgin Media cable. BBC content is available on Xbox outside the UK. Of the other, commercial public service broadcasters, Channel 4’s 4oD service is available (with additional Amazon LoveFilm branding), as is Channel 5’s Demand 5, but ITV content is not. All BBC channels combined account for about one-third of UK viewing time – not having the BBC on your service is a big mistake.

  2. It’s really easy to see a future where oma single compiled app runs on Windows Phone, Windows 8, and the Xbox 360 (I include Windows Phone because it is no pure accident that all Windows 8 apps are required to support a sidebar view which just happens to be 320 pixels, the resolution of presumed future low-end Windows Phone screens).

  3. The true, open appification of the Apple TV and Xbox 360 would be great. However, given that the Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace is currently off limits to Australian Xbox users; due to our ridiculous classification laws that (fortunately) let mobile app stores off with a free pass but require (draconian) classification of console games I assume that an app store for Xbox would also be held up locally.

    I’m aware there is an initiative to revisit this legislation, but since the R18+ classification for games really failed to get anywhere, I’m not hopefully…

  4. In terms of an SDK – doesn’t XNA SDK’s already allow for all of this to be done? Building the UI’s etc are a lot more work (as it’s all done with primative drawing types and their are no controls) – but as per interactive ‘menu’s that come up before any XNA game – it’s certainly doable. A Silverlight/etc based SDK (and dedicated xblive section for apps) would be nice though.

    I wonder if these sort of apps will have any success given many before it failed (ie. ‘3rd party’ 10 foot apps on Media Center, Google TV and others).

    ps – I think that right now you can get XNA only apps published on WP7 marketplace that don’t have to placed in the games section.

    1. I agree XNA is a framework that people could technically write apps with, the lack of controls like you’ve stated is an obvious reason to avoid doing so.

  5. Microsoft is smart if it improves its offerings via XBOX. So many of systems are hooked up and connected at once. I believe the 3 Gaming systems are intensely trying to be the only thing that needs to be hooked up to your TV. I believe that in a few years a gaming system will be the only thing needed to run all of your entertainment needs (Movies, TV Shows, Internet) No more DVD player or TV boxes, just internet.

  6. I am just hoping that the next version of the Xbox … Xbox 720 or what ever it will be called … has silent operation. My xbox often sounds like there is a jet engine taking off from under the TV. Highly annoying.

  7. You were the only one to point this out nicely done. I have my own view of the XBOX that either MS is perfectly in tune with or not concentrating enough on, which I find bizarre.

    Shouldn’t MS be asking themselves the question. “How do we keep people in the XBOX from the time they turn on the TV till the time they turn it off.”

    Shouldn’t I be able to walk in to a room, and say with my voice a series of commands, that would turn on both the XBOX, AND your TV at the same time, and then go to the TV show, game, music playlist or smartdj using specific artists and albums, all accomplished with a sentence that began the minute I walked in to the room?. Couldn’t this be accomplished by plugging the TV in to the XBOX using some kind of switching interface, and some sort of low level always on voice “thing” that is waiting for commands.

    And shouldn’t I then be able to search all of my live TV and On Demand content by search terms, and change the channel using voice as well as control the volume?

    I hope this is where they are headed sooner rather than later, don’t need to see Apple get there first after the big head start we have here.

  8. I wouldnt be surprised if microsoft takes Xbox and turns it in to a multimedia platform rather then just games. something they aimed media center to do but didn’t

  9. Well yes the XBOX will become the gaming / multimedia / casual device in the living room. Microsoft already stated that really clear with their “3 screens 1 cloud” thingy. The question is when the different ecosystems are going to merge. As far as I know the merge of Windows and Windows Phone will be with version number 9 of both systems (rumor has it). Those version will propably be scheduled after meaning a unified ecosystem is still years away. But perhaps they add a wrapper to WinRT via software update.

    One way or the other: Prepare to trash your HTPCs and NASs. Windows Home Server + XBOX + Companion Tablet will fit in nicely.

  10. Definitely, Microsoft is in the top of world technology. Xbox, silverlight and their apps are going to set how a standard very useful and used. The options that offers are amazing.

  11. Whoever wrote this and said Google beat Microsoft is the biggest retard in the history of technology. The only thing Google did is structure technology like phd research projects. Get donors to pay the bills and give everything away free. No support, no warrantees and ALL CRAP! The reason Steve Jobs made an agreement with the other tech companies not to nab talent from each other is because that’s what Google did to become Google. And notice I capitalize Google because it is a market brand and not a verb. In fact Google will sue you for trying to use it like a verb. They were awarded about 15K in domain names last summer because Google is a trademark. Bing on the other hand is an ACTUAL WORD! Googol is a number, Google is nothing! Bing is the spoils of mining as in data mining. Bing is brilliant and performs much better than Google and Bill Gates himself recently endorsed Bing as the better tool. Now that I pointed that out. So… Google stole the search engine builder from Microsoft to create their search tool. Meaning they stole a decade of Microsoft Intellectual Property and then gave it away for free (so they couldn’t be sued right?) similar to their pirating Microsoft’s Software ideas that were patented and putting them into Android. Well, Microsoft started making deals with the hardware companies providing android devices. in 2011, HTC and Samsung have been throwing bucks to Microsoft for these patent violations. Anywho. So to this article! How long has Xbox been around? They came second? Google beat them? WTF. You are an IDIOT! Microsoft develops software, they know what they are doing. It takes them a while to get to an end product but damn it XBOX is the most popular media device in the WORLD. Google beat them in no regard. And every Android device since 2011 gives (or at least should) Microsoft money and with that is a Microsoft product. I don’t care how dumb the tech world is and the author’s of crap like this. And pray on Google’s market share (we can’t offend the all mighty Google, our site may not appear in the top 10 anymore.) And they are getting sued by millions for their recording data from Google Chrome. Talk about big brother. They are taking your information and selling it! F Google. Pay attention. Microsoft is the only company worth a crap. Steve Jobs built the biggest for profit industry in his final days while Bill Gates built the biggest charity in the world! Who won. You decide (Epic rap battles)

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