After three years of waiting, AT&T U-verse subscribers with an Xbox 360 may finally soon be able to use the Microsoft game console to navigate their TV programming. According to a report by Engadget, U-verse subscribers could take advantage of a software update to the Xbox 360 to begin using it as their default electronic programming guide (EPG) beginning November 7.
The ability to control the TV with your Xbox has long been touted as one of the advantages of Microsoft’s MediaRoom IPTV platform, which U-verse is run on. Microsoft first demoed the capability in 2007, but it’s taken several years before the functionality is being rolled out to consumers. According to Engadget, a software update to subscriber set-top boxes will be rolled out on October 17, but the feature won’t actually be available until a few weeks later, on November 7.
For Microsoft, taking over the programming guide is a big deal, and not just because it reduces the number of boxes that consumers have hooked up to their TVs. Acting as the EPG will give the Xbox the coveted ‘Input 1′ spot in a TV setup, which means that users will no longer have to switch inputs to use any of the other features the Xbox is capable of. That includes streaming movies from Netflix or the Zune marketplace, watch content stored locally on their PCs, or connecting to other third-party apps like Last.fm, Facebook or even Twitter. It essentially makes the Xbox 360 a user’s de facto media center.
Microsoft has been trying to bring in more content on its gaming platform, including signing a deal with ESPN to give Xbox Live subscribers to access ESPN3 live and on-demand video content. Unfortunately, that video service is available only to users who get their cable or IPTV service from companies that have affiliate deals with ESPN, but it’s just one example of how Microsoft could provide a lot more content through the gaming system. We can probably expect more of these deals as time goes on.
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