Everyone seems to be jumping out of their skin over WSJ’s report last night that Apple is in talks with cable companies to pipe live TV into an Apple-made box or television set.While it sounds exciting, one of Apple’s biggest rivals, Microsoft, has already accomplished what Apple is trying to do.
With Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console, you can pipe in live TV and on-demand streaming shows from providers like Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, and Verizon FiOS. As long as you already subscribe to those services, you can access them on your Xbox.
Remember when early speculation about the alleged Apple television set said it would allow you to control everything with your voice thanks to Siri? If you have Kinect, the Xbox can already do that. With a simple voice command you can tell your Xbox to change the channel or play a certain show. And since the Kinect’s primary function is motion detection, there are a bunch of cool gestures you can use to navigate your content. There’s almost no need for a remote.
The capabilities vary a little from provider to provider, so here’s a quick breakdown:
- AT&T U-Verse customers can access DVR recordings from their Xbox and watch live TV without switching inputs to your normal cable box.
- Comcast customers can get access to the Netflix-like Xfinity streaming service that delivers a bunch of shows and movies to your Xbox over the web.
- Verizon FiOS customers can watch select cable channels such as Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, HBO, and TBS.
And all this great content is wrapped up in the Xbox’s tile-based user interface.Of course, there are a few of caveats to this. Not all cable providers, most notably a few big ones like Time Warner, play nice with the Xbox. And you’ll need to pay Microsoft about $50 per year on top of your normal cable bill for the Xbox Live plan that lets you stream stuff and play games online.
But unless Apple surprises us, it’s not doing anything insanely revolutionary with TV. Its negotiations with cable companies seem to be just mimicking what Microsoft, and Google, and many others are trying to do.