Microsoft rolls out Xbox TV platform

By Ryan Nakashima

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Dec. 5 2011 7:29 a.m. MST

LOS ANGELES — Microsoft Corp. is rolling out a new interface for its Xbox game console users — one that allows you to navigate through music, movies, TV shows and games with the wave of your hand or the sound of your voice.

The interface, first demonstrated by CEO Steve Ballmer in September, is set up similarly to Microsoft Corp.'s upcoming Windows 8 operating system with a series of large panes showing content options.

Xbox owners with the Kinect motion controller can swipe through screens by waving their hand in the air. It also responds to direct voice commands, and incorporates Microsoft's search engine, Bing. Windows phone users can control what to watch or hear by tapping on their portable devices.

The interface will be available to Xbox users connected to the Internet via a download on Tuesday.

In a demonstration for The Associated Press, a Microsoft employee demonstrated how saying, clearly, "Xbox. Bing. 'Iron Man,' " brought up a selection of movies, TV shows, games and soundtracks related to the title. Saying "Xbox. Show. Movies," brought up places to rent or buy the movie, including Microsoft's Zune store, Wal-Mart's Vudu, Netflix or pay TV channel Epix.

Separate subscriptions are required for services like Netflix, and much of the content also requires being a gold member of Xbox Live, a connected Internet service that costs $60 a year.

Microsoft expects to have pay TV channel partners, including those supplied by Verizon FiOS. There will be no broadcast partners, so fans of the ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox networks will continue to rely on standard set-top boxes or digital rabbit ear antennas for that content.

Microsoft says there have been 57 million Xbox units sold around the world and there are more than 35 million users who have logged on to its Xbox Live service at least once in the last three months. It did not divulge how many Xbox Live users are paying gold members.

Ross Honey, general manager of Xbox Live entertainment and advertising, said around 40 content partners were expected for the platform. Available apps from those partners will roll out gradually over time. Other partners include the British Broadcasting Company, Hulu Plus, Disney's online ESPN3 service, Ultimate Fighting Championship, YouTube and cable giant Comcast Corp.'s Xfinity on-demand subscription service.

Many of the offerings require separate pay TV subscriptions or one-time payments. Honey said that many deals with content providers are still in the works.

"As with any new technology that comes with the entertainment industry, it takes time," he said. "What we have here is a start."

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