The next update to Microsoft’s XBox Live service (s MSFT) is slated for release this Tuesday, and will include long-awaited applications from some heavy-hitting partners. Sources tell me that the update will have new content from Comcast’s video-on-demand service (s CMCSA) and HBO Go. (s TWX)
Both Comcast and HBO were among the first new content partners when Microsoft announced changes to its Xbox Live user interface and new content deals last October. But they’re some of the last partners to come online as Microsoft has staggered updates of its various content partners’ software over the last several months. Already, apps from Verizon, (s VZ) Epix, Vevo, Vudu (s WMT) and YouTube (s GOOG) have gone live on the game console.
That said, the addition of the new apps tomorrow isn’t wholly unexpected: In February, HBO co-president Eric Kessler told a roomful of tech press that the Xbox implementation of the HBO Go app would go live on April 1, just in time for the season premiere of hit fantasy show Game of Thrones.
Astute observers pointed out that release date was unlikely, however, for a few reasons: For one thing, Microsoft always releases Xbox updates (and really, any software update) on Tuesday, which didn’t mesh with the Sunday premiere of Game of Thrones. For another, it seemed extremely unlikely that HBO would want to have users try to download the app on the same day as the premiere, which could potentially create a bad user experience if things didn’t go as planned.
So tomorrow’s launch date isn’t a huge surprise for HBO. The more interesting news is the launch of Comcast’s Xbox Live experience, which will give users the ability to search its video-on-demand service directly from the game console. That follows Comcast’s attempt to expand access to its content on a number of new devices, including the iPad and connected TVs from Samsung.
That said, Comcast’s Xbox Live deployment is coming under a little bit of criticism prior to launch. An FAQ posted on Comcast’s website has said that videos streamed through the app wouldn’t count toward Comcast’s 250 GB bandwidth cap. That’s causing a bit of a stir, as some people complain that it violates some basic net neutrality tenets and is a threat against streaming services like Netflix (s NFLX) or Hulu Plus. Comcast, meanwhile, claims that the Xbox VOD service doesn’t count against the cap because it is streamed over the cable provider’s private IP network, as opposed to over the public Internet.