Microsoft's big plans for Xbox Live
During an interview in Microsoft's elaborate, two-story booth at E3, Mike Delman talked about plans for Skype on the Xbox, Kinect's new capabilities and how Xbox Live is going to become an entertainment service for Windows 8 PCs.
Seattle Times technology columnist
LOS ANGELES — Microsoft will partner with regional cable companies to bring live TV onto the Xbox, a new feature that it announced Monday at the Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3).
That means the TV services will be provided through cable and satellite companies, and Xbox owners will need to subscribe to their services to get the live TV onto their game console.
That's according to Mike Delman, vice president of global marketing at Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business group.
During an interview in Microsoft's elaborate, two-story booth at E3, Delman also talked about plans for Skype on the Xbox, Kinect's new capabilities and how Xbox Live is going to become an entertainment service for Windows 8 PCs.
Here's an edited transcript of our conversation.
Q: Do you feel you've got as much at E3 as the other guys?
A: Definitely. We don't have an announcement like a new console, but the combination of the games for the hard-core, starting to answer the question about the Kinect for the core, and having a lot more Kinect for broader audiences and the live television has played real well.
Q: Some of your announcements were just a tease, like live TV coming this fall to Xbox. Did you hold back details because partnerships aren't done yet?
A: We have partnerships in certain places. It's kind of ironic we have a lot of international partnerships before we got some of our U.S. partnerships done.
The reason we talked about it is doing the platform work — doing voice, doing Bing search, getting the UI [user interface]to be a modern UI is really the hard work. Layering in the content isn't as hard, so it's a natural sequence.
Q: Will live TV be universal, or will it be regional TV services provided by whoever your cable provider is?
A: It will be tied to either a satellite broadcast company or a cable company. So in international markets, you'll just have one provider. In the U.S., it will be bifurcated by region, by market. You'll be a Comcast guy [in Seattle], for example.
Q: So you'll have to be a Comcast subscriber, similar to the way you need a subscription to get the ESPN content on the Xbox now?
Q: Will the Bing search be full Web search or just for entertainment?
A: It will be full search on what you have on Xbox Live. So anything that's available on Xbox Live if you're a gold subscriber, it will search all of that. It won't go out and search the Web.
Q: With hard-core games, Kinect is still doing auxiliary things mostly, rather than controlling the main action. When are we going to see that?
A: People need time to build a core, triple a title from the ground up with Kinect. People are starting to build core games from the ground up. The core doesn't want the controller to come out of their hand, necessarily. ...
In a way I think voice [with a controller in hand] will be as powerful or more powerful to the core than will gestures, and the gestures won't be the sweeping gestures you have in the broader Kinect. I think they'll be more pointed gestures like a head-fake or a head-butt. ...
People are being very smart about doing something that will enhance the core experience rather than totally change it.
Q: So will "Halo 4" be a Kinect game?
A: I'm sure we'll have some Kinect in it but we're not that far along.
Q: We've seen voice and gesture controls but not much use of Kinect's scanning capability. The scanning actually wasn't fully enabled until the "Fun Lab" stuff unveiled [Monday]. I also had wondered if scanning or the finger tracking you've shown here would need new hardware with better sensors.
A: No, you can actually do that stuff now. Some of the things that will be interesting in the next generation of sensor will maybe be a more high-definition RGB camera so the video conferencing is better than it is now. Skype, if it comes to fruition — you can see a lot of possibilities.
Q: I was surprised we didn't hear about Skype in your E3 press conference, but I guess the deal hasn't closed yet ...
A: I'm probably out of bounds talking about it.
Q: Maybe you'll announce Skype on Xbox at Consumer Electronics Show in January?
A: Whenever it clears, there's a lot of possibility with that.
Q: Because there's a new Nintendo console that runs hard-core games coming, will people hold off buying an Xbox or adding Kinect to their console?
A: I don't know what the reaction's going to be relative to their own platform. All I know is we're in the fifth to sixth year of our platform and platforms have never grown in the fifth or sixth year at what we're seeing. Other platforms are not what we're focused on; we're focused on how do we make Kinect, how do we make Live as compelling as possible. ...
Q: Speaking of phone, I was surprised we didn't hear about connections between Xbox and Windows Phone here at E3.
A: Live has been successful on the Windows Phone. Live will be built into the PC. It will be the service where you get your entertainment. We were talking about it — you will not just see consoles and handhelds at this show next year, this show's going to morph into other devices.
Q: Will Xbox offer games on certified phones, similar to what Sony's PlayStation is doing with Android phones?
A: We think there's a lot of potential on the Windows phones. With the Nokia relationship, we're going to have a lot more distribution of phones and Live will be the primary entertainment service. I think that's going to be a good play for us.
If we have that and the PCs to leverage, that will be a big Live base. It's our job to make "buy a movie in one place and play it everywhere, buy a game in one place and play it everywhere." Making things portable will be a big focus of ours.
Q: How will your services and content be part of Windows 8?
A: There will be a lot of similarities in design and service philosophy. Whether it's us or Apple or anybody else, people want to be able to navigate through multiple devices in a certain ecosystem very seamlessly so we're committed to that.
Q: Will Xbox Live be your cloud media service that works with your Windows PC as well as your phone and Xbox?
A: Xbox Live will the pervasive media service across devices.
Q: Right now it's a little confusing — you've got Xbox Live, SkyDrive storage and other online places for media.
A: We have a ton of assets. Unifying the assets will be good for us and good for consumers.
Brier Dudley's blog excerpts appear Thursdays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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