We’ve got our eye on Microsoft’s (s MSFT) Xbox 360 as it has not-so-quietly transformed from a mere game console to a full-fledged entertainment hub. Updates for the device rolled out today, adding some new functionality for its Netflix (s NFLX) offering. From the Xbox press announcement:
Now you can watch movies with your friends and find new movies to add to your Instant Queue without leaving your seat.
- Party Watch – Catch a show with your friends! Bring your party into Netflix and watch a movie or TV show together. (Feature available with supported titles.)
- Find Content Faster – Browse through New Releases and other genre lists based on the types of shows you’ve previously watched, all from the comfort of your couch.
- Improved Playback Experience – Improvements have been made to ensure a better experience when adapting to changing network conditions.
- Improved Presence – Richer information is now displayed in the Friends channel and in the Guide showing what you and your friends are watching.
The Party Watch is something we’re keenly interested in as social TV becomes more mainstream. (Anyone want to watch a movie this afternoon? I can call it “research” instead of “slacking.”)
The over-the-top video space has been on a tear this year and shows no signs of slowing down — especially as the holidays approach. Rival Netflix set-top box Roku rolled out a new MLB channel for its users last night.
And Engadget points out some interesting exclusivity language found at the bottom of the Xbox announcement (emphasis ours):
This exclusive partnership offers you the ability to instantly stream movies and TV episodes from Netflix to the television via Xbox 360. Xbox 360 will be the only game console to offer this movie-watching experience, available to Xbox LIVE Gold members who are also Netflix unlimited plan subscribers**, at no additional cost.
Will be the “only game console” for how long? Netflix has always aimed for ubiquity when it comes to devices, and the movie rental company has a relationship with Sony (though just for TVs), so a PS3 deal wouldn’t be completely insane — unless Microsoft dumped a truckload of money for the privilege (of course, it doesn’t hurt that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is on Microsoft’s board).