Microsoft recently sent out a heads-up to the masses that XBox Live will undergo another update later this year, adding some new multimedia capabilities like integration with certain cable television channels, as well as the long-ago-announced-but-never-realized IPTV integration.1 There’s even Kinect support, so XBox owners can speak commands to switch what they’re viewing. Not only does this further direct us to what the future will be like, but it also prompting the question of, “Why can’t Apple do this?”
That is to say, the Apple TV is a much cheaper set-top solution than the XBox. (Of course it is, as it’s not a traditional gaming console.) But the features Microsoft is advertising with the new XBox dashboard upgrade is straight up the territory that Apple has fought for with the Apple TV, and it’s not hard to see how Apple may respond.
Why wouldn’t Apple be vying for similar contracts that Microsoft has snatched up for the XBox? Players like HBO, Bravo, the UFC, and others are clearly good to have on your team, and while Apple is still pushing content via iTunes, there are several others like real-time streaming pay-per-view that Apple could go after. But it’s not just content that Apple can try to match, it’s also cost and functionality.
Take Siri, for example, which is premiering on the iPhone 4S. Whether or not it comes to the next-gen Apple TV, there’s already solid integration between Apple devices, so it’s not hard to imagine that Apple might leverage Siri on the iPhone to control the Apple TV. From browsing the iTunes catalogue for TV shows and movies, to playback control, Siri looks like it could become an integral part of the future television experience. And Siri becoming a foundation for future control methods doesn’t need to stop there, considering how third-parties could leverage the technology.
We already have games utilizing AirPlay to stream video and audio to the AppleTV. Add in a third element, voice commands, and suddenly games can become even more complex and immersive. The XBox can do the same, of course, but whereas the Kinect remains an almost novelty purchase, Siri is part of the new iPhone experience, which means it won’t be too long before every iPhone Apple sells will offer the virtual assistant built in.
Siri’s real future is how third-party developers can integrate Siri functionality in their apps. It’s already great for Apple’s included apps, but it becomes ever more cool when we can create new tasks in OmniFocus using voice commands, or new notes in SimpleNote, than relying on first-party apps. Especially if we can use Siri to manipulate these apps along with AirPlay, giving us a big-screen picture to control with our voice.
Finally, the XBox will serve as a FIOS tuner. Hopefully, it will include DVR functionality better than Verizon’s own boxes.↩