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Xbox 360 and IPTV

January 9, 2007
At CES yesterday, Microsoft announced that the Abox 360 would be able to receive TV signals over IP. This conjured up visions of being able to receive video service independent of a cable company or phone company. For example I might be able to order all of the NBA games direct from the NBA instead of being forced into a particular TV cable or satellite provider. From listening to Sunday’s Engadget podcast, I think they has some of the same hopes.
In talking to Microsoft today at their booth I discovered that the Podcasts speculation that this really won’t be all that different from current cable TV is correct:
  • The service will be offered in the US thorugh AT&T’s lightspeed, which provides 35Mbps in bandwidth to the home. So AT&T would replace your local cable company and ISP.
  • This bandwidth should be enough for 2 HD channels and 2 SD channels to be viewed simultaneously. The service will be comparable to existing cable offerings, only the provider will be AT&T.
  • Availablity will be determined by AT&T’s buildout of infratructure up to the last mile (The last mile will remain copper.).
  • The service will be available with a regular set top box that is not an Xbox 360. However, with an Xbox 360 you get some nice features like the ability to access Xbox live (e.g. chat, accept game invitations) while wathing TV.
  • For homes with an existing home network, your router will need to be replaced with a router that has special QOS (qulaity of service) features that enable the system to work well.

This system has some advantages, the Xbox integration sounds cool and more competition for local cable coimpanies strikes me as a good thing. Similarly, there is no reason this infrastructure couldn’t provide more a la carte offerings in the future.

But right now as a cable subscriber, I’m not that excited about the possibility of IPTV from AT&T unless the price were lower than my current cable provider, Comcast.

One big downside to this approach for me personally would be the inability to use a PVR with this system– at least to the extent that I wanted to use the Xbox as the IPTV receiver. There was no discussion of using a Media Center PC to receive multiple IPTV streams and then record or distribute them to Xbox 360 extenders. I suppose you could use a non-IPTV set top box and hook it up to Media Center just as you can other set top boxes, but that would obviate any advantage of this system over Cable TV.

Update: Major Nelson’s podcast has an interview one of the IP TV guys. Two takeaways: (i) what you can do will be dictated by ISP offering this service, MS is just providing technology to them; (ii) there was discussion of using the Xbox 360 HD to record shows, but the details of what you can do will be up to the ISP.

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