Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is now seven years old and although it started life as a games console, it is now evolving into an entirely different thing. But in what ways are its multimedia facets being enhanced?
This console generation has seen three very different machines hit the market. While the Xbox 360 from Microsoft and the PlayStation 3 from Sony both ushered in the era of HD gaming, with the Nintendo Wii forging its own path with casual, family-oriented fun, it was initially assumed that Sony would lead the way in the multimedia stakes.
This was largely due to the fact that the PS3 features a Blu-ray drive as standard, allowing it to play back HD movies from high-capacity discs. Sony was hoping that this would allow its console to repeat the success of the PlayStation 2, which sold many units thanks to its integrated DVD drive.
The Xbox 360 lacked Blu-ray support and Microsoft’s creation of an HD DVD-compatible add-on drive was made redundant when this format died out. However, the emergence of ADSL2 and fibre broadband connectivity, along with a healthy batch of software updates, have allowed Microsoft to turn the Xbox 360 into a multimedia powerhouse which is actually better than the PS3 because physical discs are no longer popular in an age of high-speed web services.
Microsoft XboX 360 Video Streaming Feature:
Microsoft is making the boldest moves when it comes to video streaming on the Xbox 360 because it has struck many local deals in order to ensure that popular services are present on the console.
You can stream video from services such as YouTube direct to your living room and there are plenty of mainstream broadcasters who have added their own catch-up services to the platform, such as the BBC and Channel 4 in the UK, HBO in the US and SBS in Australia.
There are also additional services available depending on your region, such as Netflix, LoveFilm and free-movie service Crackle, which shows that not everything requires a subscription if you want content.
You will, of course, need an Xbox Live Gold account, which can be purchased monthly or yearly, so it is not a completely free media outlet. However, over the course of 12 months it is a very small amount.
You might reasonably be able to rely solely on the on-demand video streaming offered by the Xbox 360 if you want to avoid other subscription-based TV packages, which means that the console will become an all-in-one media hub, reducing the need for additional set-top boxes.
Microsoft XboX 360 Social Networking Feature:
Microsoft has been busy integrating social-networking features to make the Xbox 360 a more inclusive, communicative experience. As well as having video chat via its Kinect peripheral, you can also download apps for Facebook and Twitter.
These services let you see what your friends are up to as well as being able to communicate in your own terms using your control pad.
The Xbox Live service has also improved in terms of its ability to offer social aspects for people who really want to concentrate on the gaming side of things. Adding friends to your list is easy and you can see what they are doing and join in the fun if you wish.
Microsoft XboX 360 Digital Downloads Feature:
One of the ways in which Microsoft is monetising the increased connectivity and inclusiveness found on the Xbox 360 is by making the experience more oriented around digital downloads.
There are thousands of games, movies and music tracks which you can purchase directly from the console, which means you never need to visit a real-world store to get the latest titles or content.
This all comes with the fresh Metro-style user interface which is echoed across Microsoft’s Windows Phone mobile operating system and its upcoming Windows 8 desktop platform.
The increased consistency in the interface is reflected in the ways that various devices can interact with the Xbox 360. You can turn your smartphone or tablet into a remote control for it, which is convenient if you want to keep the controller out of the way.
As time passes, the Xbox 360 is going to become a more important part of the home-entertainment experience. With Microsoft expected to reveal its successor in 2013, the Xbox 360 is certainly ending its life cycle on a high note.