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Monday December 5, 2011 2:57 pm

Xbox 360 voice search, TV content deals launch December 6


Microsoft said Sunday night that it plans to launch its fall 2011 dashboard update for its Xbox 360 game console, complete with voice search via Xbox Kinect, this week.

Microsoft also announced a significant number of related content partnerships, bringing most major services to the Xbox platform this week or by early 2012. On Dec. 6, Starting Dec. 6, a free Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone will let also let users find, learn more about and control content from popular entertainment services on Xbox LIVE.

Shortly after midnight on Sunday night, Microsoft said that the "Bing on Xbox" update would arrive on U.S. consoles beginning "tomorrow," and roll out to U.S. console owners over the coming weeks. Those without a Kinect peripheral will be able to search using Bing text search.

The voice search capability, first revealed in June, will work with both the Xbox Live Marketplace, Zune Video, and selected content partners. On Dec. 6, presumably the date of the update, Microsoft plans to add content from new entertainment partners, including apps, from EPIX, ESPN, Hulu Plus, Netflix, and MSNBC's Today.

Microsoft's vision for the Xbox platform, including voice search via Kinect, probably was more significant six months ago before Apple's Siri began dominating headlines with its ability to naturally search and interact with the user and a variety of apps. Nevertheless, it allows users to interact with a growing sea of content as simply as possible.


For instance, if you want to watch X-Men, you can simply say, "Xbox Bing X-Men" and Bing will pull up all X-Men related games and movies stored in your console. You can then say "Xbox Play X-Men" to start playing the movie.

"This is our vision for the future of TV—effortless, approachable, because TV is more amazing when you are the controller," Marc Whitten, vice president of Xbox Live, said in June.

Microsoft also announced dozens of content agreements, which will roll out in a staggered schedule worldwide. For the United States, Microsoft will follow its Dec. 6 content agreements with others later in December, including Crackle, Clear Channels' iHeartRadio, MSNBC.com, TMZ, UFC on Xbox Live, Verizon FiOS, VEVO, and Wal-Mart's Vudu. Microsoft also said that it would provide DailyMotion to 32 countries and Google's YouTube to 24 countries, presumably including the United States.

In 2012, Microsoft promised that Best Buy's CinemaNow would be available for the Xbox 360, as well as HBO Go, MLB.tv, and Comcast's Xfinity on Demand.

Some of the content partnerships will result in optimized apps for the Xbox Live Kinect platform, which may or may not require Xbox Gold membership, Microsoft warned.

James McQuivey, an analyst for Forrester, gushed over the new update in a blog post published on Sunday. "Meet engaged TV. From now on, I will no longer need to plead with the audiences I address, the clients I meet, or my friends who still listen to me toimagine the future of TV, "he wrote. "Because Microsoft has just built and delivered it: A single box that ties together all the content you want, made easily accessible through a universal, natural, voice-directed search. This is now the benchmark against which all other living room initiatives should be compared, from cable or satellite set top boxes to Apple's widely rumored TV to the 3.0 version of Google TV that Google will have to start programming as soon as they see this."

This article, written by Mark Hachman, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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