Back in this 4GM essay I talked about the perception wars -- that is, that the entertainment pipe would not change significantly until "the place we download" and "the place we watch our TV" intersect. On the tail end of all the portability and Apple stuff, I banged around the "console factor" -- rumors I'd heard that the XBox 360 was a stealth set-top box. This was the Monster in the Dark for Network television as far as I was concerned. The Networks, as arms of larger entertainment corporations, keep looking at downloadable content and DVD as downstream extensions of their identity. That made sense as long as there was no unified identity to supplant them down the pipe.
Well, game over. Gizmodo today leaks that new XBox 360 services will include full IPTV, downloadable content, video on demand, DVR functionality ... smack. When somebody smarter than I am writes the book ten years from now, this'll be the opening chapter hook. Chimp-easy download, no Bittorrent clients, no futzing with Divx files and home networking, that content smacks into my living room and the living rooms of, by the end of this year, somewhere around ten million people (assuming the 360 sells the projected 4 odd million this year.)
I've been skeptical of broadband as the newest solo pipe -- broadband's smacking around 3/4 of internet connectivity now, but internet connectivity's still around 65%, pegging broadband households at around, oh, 45%. DVD penetration's still at 81%, and we're not taking enough advantage of that. Download's still pig-slow for any file of reasonable size -- although for streaming VOD, well, it should be fine.
This was a (somewhat terrifyingly) masterful piece of work. For men 18-24, their XBox is their total entertainment hub. Microsoft created the perception first, and then tuned it in the direction they wanted it to go. It's typical Microsoft, too -- let Apple do all the fancy footwork, then come in and glom onto the concepts that work the best. Within a few years (and by "few years" I mean as soon as 18 months) we'll see Microsoft take advantage of the positive buzz from happy gamers -- the fine wedge of tech love - and offer a broadband entertainment box for non-gamers.
I'm in a bit of a rush this morning, so I'll jump back onto this on Monday. I just wanted to call dibs -- when you see the Joss Whedon channel on your XBox 360 Media Interface, remember this day.