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Microsoft Brings New Entertainment Capabilities to Xbox 360

1 Jun, 2009 By: John Latchem

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Microsoft opened the E3 confab June 1 with an array of new entertainment options for the Xbox 360 video game console, including the ability to instantly stream 1080p movies and TV shows with 5.1 surround sound.

“Today with cultural visionaries at our side and controller-free gaming on our horizon, Xbox 360 authored a new page in home entertainment history,” said Don Mattrick, SVP for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft.

Starting this fall, a broad selection of movies and TV shows from Zune video on Xbox 360 will be available to start and stream instantly for users of the Xbox Live social network with consoles connected to compatible HDTVs. Microsoft also plans to more than double the number of markets where Xbox Live offers its TV shows and movies, growing from eight to 18 by adding Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. 

In addition, users in the United States, Britain and Ireland will be able to watch movies streamed from Netflix, and can watch live or on-demand TV programming from Sky, including Sky Sports.

Another new feature, Xbox Live Party, lets users share movie experiences by certain films and hearing friends’ reactions despite not being in the same place.

Andy Parsons, SVP, industrial solutions business group, Pioneer Electronics, and chair of the Blu-ray Disc Association promotion committee in the United States, said engineering 1080p streaming is easier said than done, pointing out the standard broadband speed among cable operators is 5 Mbps.

“Definitely eight to 10 Mbps bandwidth would be difficult to find everywhere,” Parsons said. “There are a lot of elements in the delivery chain that have to be available to make something like that work. It is difficult to imagine that everyone could enjoy 1080p content online. And it’s certainly not something we would consider equivalent to Blu-ray.”
Microsoft said households require a 1080p/24 compatible HDTV, HDMI cable and broadband speeds greater than 8 Mbps.

Xbox Live also has added connections to Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm, a CBS Interactive Music Group site that will give Xbox Live subscribers access to millions of streaming songs.

Microsoft also unveiled “Project Natal,” a motion sensor that lets gamers play without a controller. The company said the technology goes beyond other machines that use light-dependent sensors in that Project Natal tracks body movements in 3-D, responds to voice commands and can detect an emotional shift in the player’s mood.

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