I sat down with Microsoft the other day to talk about the upcoming Xbox Live refresh that includes fancy new Bing integration, Kinect controlling nearly everything, deeper Facebook integration, and watching live cable TV on your Xbox.
Microsoft talked about partnerships with regional cable providers that would integrate the console with their services. Live TV and video on demand are currently being discussed. Basically, your Xbox becomes a cable box. Some partnerships will include live TV access, others will just be Video on Demand. If you're lucky, your provider will allow you to access both on the Xbox. Like Netflix, you'll be able to chat with friends while watching TV. When asked about DVR capabilities, while they don't have plans for it now, they didn't discount the possibility. But I wouldn't hold my breath.
Microsoft intends to announce cable-provider partnerships when the service goes live during the holidays and will continue to announce new partnerships thereafter.
And because telling everyone about your crop situation on Facebook wasn't enough, deeper Xbox Live integration with the social network gives gamers the ability to post all, or only some, of their achievements. Additionally, posting a message about a game via a new feature known as Beacons is intended to announce a game you intend to play to your Xbox and Facebook friends.
The Bing demo was impressive as it featured the ability to search not only the Xbox Live and Zune Marketplace, but also the content of their partners like Netflix, Hulu, and the video on demand libraries of cable partnered cable providers. Gamers can speak their queries via the Kinect or type them in with the control pad.
Users can control nearly every aspect of Xbox Live with Kinect except for the settings portion. So expect to yell and wave your arms in front of your TV while looking for add-ons for your games.
Finally, they showed me the new remote for the Xbox that's expected to hit store shelves in November and set you back $19.99. No, the remote does not have a keyboard and they have no immediate plans to release one with a keyboard which seems like a great opportunity for a third-party hardware developer.
The Xbox Live dashboard refresh, codenamed "Metro," is expected to hit this holiday season.