Microsoft’s Xbox 360 might seem like the perfect platform for developers of TV apps — after all, it already has a huge install base and its users love watching video on the service. But the company has no plans to open its game console to outside developers anytime soon, according to one exec.
Albert Penello, director of platform marketing for the Xbox, said in an interview Monday that Microsoft is focused on developing differentiated media experiences on its Xbox Live service, which take advantage of all the social features that are available through the gaming system. To do so, Microsoft is taking a very hands-on approach to the services it adds to Xbox Live, creating customized user interfaces for video applications like the Sky Player or the ESPN3 implementation it rolled out earlier this year, enabling multiparty video viewing, user chat and friend recommendations across these video services.
“We would rather take a curated approach and have a differentiated experience,” Penello said, rather than have an open platform and miss one or two hot apps.
For Microsoft, that means Xbox Live users will get a more consistent look and feel across different services. But for developers and video publishers, it means more work and time needed to create or update their user interface for Xbox Live services. As time goes on, that lack of openness could also mean that Xbox Live users will have access to fewer video services being launched on the game console than on competing devices.
Already, Microsoft is starting to fall behind in adding media services to the device. While the Xbox 360 was one of the first devices to enable Netflix streaming, and it grabbed the Sky Player service early, Sony’s PlayStation 3 is moving aggressively to add new content and video services Microsoft doesn’t have. The PS3 is the first game console to get access to Hulu Plus, for instance, and it also recently added the Vudu video-on-demand service. At the same time, low-cost, set-top boxes like the Roku player and the Boxee Box by D-Link are emerging that enable video publishers to create and submit their own apps with open software development kits (SDKs).
With an entirely fragmented market for TV apps, publishers are already looking for ways to create user interfaces for the TV using HTML5, as opposed to writing apps using the multiple discrete SDKs offered by consumer electronics manufacturers. Netflix has been talking up its use of the web standard lately as the best way to create its UI for the PS3, and you can expect other video publishers to follow suit.
The stance also throws cold water on the notion it could turn to its Silverlight rich Internet application framework for the device. Microsoft was rumored to be adding Silverlight to Xbox, presumably so developers would have a consistent framework on which to write apps that work on the console, as well as desktops and Windows Phone 7 devices. But with Microsoft preferring to keep Xbox Live a closed ecosystem, it seems unlikely Silverlight will emerge as a tool for developers to create cross-platform devices.
Image courtesy of flickr user Jamie3.org.
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