The modern television-navigating experience is awful. You know it. Your parents know it. Steve Jobs knew it. The American television landscape is dominated by a few cable providers which run on frail operating systems that are basically just less charming versions of the Prevue Channel. So it’s understandable that there is an emerging movement to “cut the cord”: To leave cable television behind and watch all of your favorite shows online. At this point, the “cut the cord” trend has been mostly limited to young people, who are less likely to have disposable income and coincidentally more likely to fall victim to silly trends. However, Microsoft may have just brought us one step closer to the end of the cable-box era: Starting tomorrow, the company is initiating a redesign of Xbox Live with the intention to make it a kinder, gentler, more accessible viewing platform for television.
In some ways, the change is purely cosmetic. Netflix and Hulu Plus have been available on Xbox Live for awhile; the new system will essentially create a search function that operates throughout all the Xbox’s video services. However, the company will also be adding an impressive array of providers: As reported by the New York Times, Verizon FiOs, Comcast’s Xfinity, and HBO. You will have to pay for those services separately, but since they’ll all be operating within the Xbox Live environment, the experience will be decidedly futuristic. Assuming you have a Kinect, you’ll be able to navigate entirely through voice commands, which will officially bring us one step closer to the awesome future imagined by Back to the Future 2.
It’s an interesting moment in the evolution of television. Netflix, which made its mark in the culture as a content-delivery service, will soon begin creating its own content: the original series House of Cards, and the long-awaited return of Arrested Development. HBO has created its own content-delivery service, HBO Go. It’s interesting to see that big companies like Verizon and Comcast are getting involved with Xbox Live. One wonders if TV companies are trying to avoid the sad fate of the music business, another media industry which experienced digital-age growing pains.
One interesting note: Apparently, when you tell your Xbox to search for an actor or a TV show, you have to utilize Microsoft’s search function, the iconically un-iconic Bing. Does this mean that the phrase “Bing it” could actually become a real thing, and not just a fantasy phrase from the world of product-placement television?
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