Companies in the internet TV space should start worrying. It seems Microsoft's foray into life streaming on the XBox 360 will arrive as early as autumn. As promised in early June at the
E3 event, 360 Live users will see Twitter, Facebook and streaming radio service Last.fm available to their community as downloadable apps. Additionally, the existing Netflix application is expected to be updated to allow users to browse through titles directly from Live. With the promise of on-demand games, streaming videos, music and a new social media component, the Xbox community is about to look a lot like open source media center Boxee.
The rebirth of the XBox 360 as an entertainment system is a significant one. After the release of the first generation XBox console, a number of developers modified it, built media-player software and released it as the XBox Media Centre (or now, XBMC). Unaffiliated with Microsoft, the group created a cross-platform open source media player with the possibility for third-party plug-ins. It was the basis for an amazing new entertainment experience, and accordingly, streaming entertainment service Boxee is actually a fork of the original XBMC software. Nevertheless, it appears that with streaming Netflix, Twitter, Facebook and new entertainment functionality, the Microsoft sanctioned 360 marketplace may cannibalize its open source counterpart.
According to Eurogamer, Microsoft marketing executive James Halton commented on the Twitter and Facebook release saying, "It will be before Christmas. A lot of the background work's been done for a lot of applications that are coming."
In addition to this more social 360 Live community, Microsoft's most interesting entertainment efforts have been demoed, but they have not been released to the public. ReadWriteWeb recently covered a number of motion-based web interfaces and Microsoft's Project Natal is among the most anticipated motion interfaces for the gaming world.
Natal uses a sensor-based camera to recognize full body gestures, facial movements, depth perception and voice. The interface also allows players to scan real world objects like skateboards to interact with them in game play. With the integration of Facebook and Twitter, and the upcoming release of Natal, gamers will be able to record their own gestures and brag about their Xbox triumphs directly from their television screens. Alternatively, if your friends already heckle your lack of Skate abilities, they'll soon carry the heckling across networks, complete with screen captures and tweet annotation. Think of it as a modern-day America's Funniest Home Videos, only your avatar is the one getting kicked in the virtual junk over and over again. Love it or leave it, Microsoft is about to offer audiences a totally immersive entertainment experience. The Boxee community had better collect its rocks, it appears Goliath is on the move.