Microsoft has promised IPTV on the Xbox for nearly four years now, and while the mothballs have collected on that pledge over time, Microsoft has dusted off the concept to roll out the Xbox-as-set-top here in the US starting on October 15th. As Dave described it back in January, the Xbox in this scenario acts as a thin client for a primary AT&T U-verse box. AT&T is using HPNA to network a traditional set-top to a subscriber’s Xbox console. And therein lies the catch. As of today, you can’t get U-verse TV on a retail Xbox unless you’re also in AT&T’s footprint for U-verse service. That’s because AT&T still needs to use its own network for IP delivery (as opposed to the congested Internet), and presumably also because licensing and regulatory issues would make a national pay-TV service impossible right now.
Interestingly, AT&T is pushing the boundaries with a new U-verse mobile app also announced today. Even if you’re not a U-verse subscriber, you can get the new Windows Phone 7 app for $9.99 per month. It allows you to “download and watch hit TV shows on your smartphone.” Details of what those hit shows might be are scarce. But no doubt we’ll hear more from users before long.
As far as U-verse on the Xbox goes, this is a promising first step for the country’s only all-IP TV service. (IP, after all, is supposed to make it possible for us to access content on lots of different devices.) And Microsoft finally gets to make good on its Trojan horse in the living room.
From the press release:
Using your Xbox 360 as a U-verse receiver, you can receive chat and game invitations from friends through Xbox Live while watching live TV and switch seamlessly from game to TV mode without switching video inputs on your TV screen. You will enjoy virtually the same U-verse TV experience and features available today, including the ability to watch live TV, manage and play back DVR recordings and access interactive apps, your program guide, the On Demand library and more. U-verse TV on Xbox 360 also allows customers to avoid an extra box on their entertainment center and the need to pay a monthly rental fee for an additional receiver.
New customers can order the $99 Xbox kit at 1-800-ATT-2020 when they subscribe to U-verse, and a U-verse technician will load U-verse software on their Xbox 360 during their service installation.