It seems that there's been a lot of confusion over what exactly IPTV on the Xbox 360 is bringing to the table, and moreover, what it'll take to bring it to your table. So I sat down with Microsoft to get a demo and clear up a lot of the confusion that's been going on since the initial announcement here at CES. First off, the service will be available to all 16 of its current IPTV customers, such as AT&T, by the end of the year, as it is essentially the same as the standard Microsoft IPTV software, it's simply running on a 360. Both deploying the service AND the available content is up to the providers, however, and who will be rolling out the service is still to be determined. No one's confirmed yet, in other words. Continued with a gallery and videos after the jump...
It's ultimately available to any service provider that offers Microsoft IPTV now or in the future, though. Interestingly, one option service providers may explore in getting customers to buy into the IPTV program is to lease out the 360 like a cable box, or they can follow a cell phone model, where you buy a 360 from the service provider at a subsidized price bundled with IPTV. Or, if you already have a 360, you can download the software and go from there, though this obviously requires a hard drive.
As all of the video decoding is done by software, rather than by a hardware tuner, you will be able to record HD shows (DVR and VOD capabilities are there, in other words, as long as your provider offers them) while playing a game. Moreover, due to the software decoding, the number of streams able to be recorded simultaneously is essentially a matter of bandwidth, so it's theoretically possible to record multiple streams while gaming to boot. The priority now, however, is simply making sure that recording an HD stream while playing a game works flawlessly — the other is extra, so we'll get exact numbers closer to launch.
So where are you going to put all of those shows, as well as the IPTV software itself? Like Michael at Kotaku, I couldn't get a confirmation of the upcoming higher capacity drives, simply that the all 360s are "designed now" to add an HD. Asking about hot swapping drives, supposing a "theoretical" higher capacity one existed, got a reply of "stay tuned." The rep added, however, that the digital compression used will allow HD content to fit in half the space it typically uses on a traditional cable set up and that the IPTV client software itself "isn't very big."