It was only a few weeks ago that Sony tried to beat Microsoft’s Xbox One at the entertainment game with a digital streaming television service. Now Microsoft is striking back with a new partnership and expanding support for the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner that it unleashed last year. Effectively, Microsoft is about to bring live television to every Xbox One, whether the owner has a cable box connected to their console or not.
Microsoft revealed huge upgrades in the way the Xbox One offers live television this morning on its Xbox Wire news blog.
To handle broadcast television, Microsoft has partnered with TV tuner maker Hauppauge. Going forward anyone with an Xbox One console will be able to purchase the company’s Hauppauge WinTV-955Q and have it work directly with the Xbox One’s software and OneGuide experience. In addition to that, the two companies are working together on a dedicated TV Tuner for Xbox Ones in the United States and Canada. In fact, Microsoft says that the software available to anyone in the Xbox Preview Program already supports the Hauppauge tuner. The Xbox Preview Program lets some users get access to future software upgrades before the wider community. Currently, the program is invitation only.
Broadcast television refers to the channels that are available without a cable subscription. When you’re watching ABC, CBS, NBC Fox and PBS, you are watching broadcast television. Today, the only way to get access to these channels on the Xbox One is through the purchase of a separate HD tuner or by buying a cable subscription. To be clear, these new tuners aren’t exactly providing users with access to channels that they didn’t already have if they had a television with a digital tuner built-in already.
Sony’s PlayStation Vue service relies on a stable internet connection and deals directly with content providers like ABC and CBS. It’s also constrained depending on geographic location.
If an Xbox One Digital TV tuner sounds familiar it’s because Microsoft already produces something close to it. Last year, Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner. The small back accessory plugs into the console’s USB and a third-party antenna. Microsoft says its rolling out support for the Xbox One Digital V Tuner to 11 more countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. The accessory was already available for Xbox Ones in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Going forward the Digital TV tuner will get shelf space in European retailers that already sell the Xbox One.
Microsoft originally marketed the Xbox One as an entertainment console instead of just of just a gaming console. With the Xbox 360 Microsoft noticed that a big amount of Xbox Live usage wasn’t coming from video games and related content, but from people watching Netflix and enjoying video from its Xbox Video Store. The Xbox One is a gaming console, but it’s also intended to be in an entertainment console for the rest of the family too.
The console’s OneGuide screen sorts what’s airing effortlessly based on your cable service. You can set certain channels as you favorites or browse through what’s airing on any channel. Those who have a Kinect sensor can simply order their Xbox One to turn to a specific channel instead of having to learn specific channel numbers. The OneGuide shows what television shows are trending on Xbox Live and provides tweets about shows you’re watching for a fun social experience.
Exactly when Hauppauge will release its dedicated tuner for the Xbox One remains unclear. To take advantage of the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner users don’t need a Kinect 2 sensor, it seems. That is a limitation of the cable and satellite features the Xbox One offers today.