SOFTWARE BUSINESS Microsoft is bringing television programmes to its Xbox Live service.
Although the other players, Nintendo's Wii and Sony PS3, have offered similar services for years, Microsoft is happy to brag about its entry, and promises that entertainment will become more enjoyable because you can watch it through an Xbox and it isn't just Sky programming.
Putting aside the fact that an Xbox makes a lot of noise already, this means that across the globe users will be able to revel in the output of their favourite channels, the BBC in the UK for example, and HBO in the US, without changing the channel on their television.
"Today's announcement is a major step toward realising our vision to bring you all the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, made easy," said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft.
"Combining the world's leading TV and entertainment providers with the power of Kinect for Xbox 360 and the intelligence of Bing voice search will make TV and entertainment more personal, social and effortless."
The proposition's appeal is something of a mystery. Microsoft said that users will be able to switch between playing games and watching television instantly, something that people have been able to do for years. Still the fact that content is searchable is there, as is the mention of Kinect, which might mean that you can change channels like Tom Cruise would in Minority Report.
UK users get a decent selection of programming, even if most of them already have access to it already. Microsoft said that local partners include the BBC, ITV, Bskyb, Channel 5, Channel 4, Lovefilm, and, um, Zune.
While some channels, such as the BBC, will be free to all subscribers, others will only be available to Gold subscribers.
Microsoft also announced that users of its Windows Phone 7 devices can soon control their Xbox using their smartrphone. Which is sure to have limited appeal to that limited section of users. Although you cannot play a game with the app it can be used to navigate the console, should, we imagine, you cannot find your actual games controller.
No date was revealed for the application, called Xbox Companion, but in a blog post Microsoft said that it would allow for some limited control over the games console, and would let users search the Marketplace for demos., for example. µ