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Microsoft’s Whitten Talks Zune, Facebook, And The Next Xbox Console

imageThe pending Xbox Live integration with Last.fm, Facebook and BSkyB shows that *Microsoft* has been busy making new content deals ever since the launch of last year’s very successful *Netflix* partnership. And Xbox Live’s GM Marc Whitten said that there were more coming down the pike — including deals that would increase the amount of live TV available for streaming. He also explained why Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) chose Facebook over MySpace, whether people can rent movies on a Zune and then watch them on the console, and why the company isn’t likely to launch a successor the the Xbox 360 any time soon:

So you’re bringing the Xbox video marketplace under the Zune brand. Does that mean you can share content from the Zune player with the console, and vice versa?

Not right now. We really think of the world in terms of three screens [PC, TV and mobile], so you watch a movie or TV show on the device you rented it on. It’s not a download and sync thing yet; we’re talking mostly about instant access, but you’ll be hearing more about syncing in the future.

At first glance, the Xbox Live library has much more video content available than Zune’s — did you have to renegotiate your deals with companies like *ABC* and *MTV* to make all the shows and movies available in one place?

We don’t release a ton of details about the licensing and rights negotiations, but it’s definitely been a complex process. We’re constantly trying to get permission to do new things with their content — whether that’s something like the Xbox Live party that lets people create a co-viewing experience, or sharing videos across a single account.

The *BSkyB* deal is great for Xbox owners in the U.K., but when will people in the U.S. get their live TV?

It’s funny — we got that same question from the international community when we first launched Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) in the U.S. We’re going to continue to broker deals, including for live TV; it’s just a matter of getting the terms right.

What makes Facebook and Twitter better social media partners for Xbox Live than MySpace?

We started by asking what kinds of social media experiences would work best in the living room. Facebook is really focused around photos, for example; we know people sometimes crowd around a laptop to check out pictures, so we thought that would be a good feature to bring to the big screen. Twitter is a match because its about real-time, instant communication — just like playing with your friends on Xbox Live.

The Xbox 360 is four years old. You’ve already relaunched the online network once, and now you’re seeding it with more content. But at what point do you think, ‘it’s time for a new console?’

In four years, the concept of what a console can do has changed radically. The 360 is already pretty powerful, so we’re focused on fostering a rich service like the New Xbox Experience that can reinvent itself — not specifically a new console.

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