With Amazon Instant Video and More, Is Xbox 360 the Center of Your Entertainment?

Amazon has announced the launch of the Instant Video app for Xbox 360 that gives customers access to movies and TV episodes on their console. Xbox Live Gold members who also are subscribed to the Amazon Prime service can now access over 17,000 movies and TV episodes from Amazon. If you don’t have the Amazon Prime subscription, you can purchase any streaming video content and watch it on your Xbox 360 console.


Download the Amazon Instant Video application from the Apps section of the Xbox dashboard. Once in the Amazon Instant Video application, sign in using your Amazon credentials and instantly watch the videos you want. While you can shop the Amazon Instant Video store from the web on a PC, Mac or tablet, you can’t do that from the console! Bummer, yes. Buying and renting movies directly on your Xbox 360 is not currently supported, although, anything you buy or rent will appear in Your Video Library on your Xbox 360.

The app includes a new Watchlist feature, similar to Netflix Queue, that lets you manage your queue and purchased content in a playlist from your computer. The app is Kinect-enabled, and you can use gesture or voice commands for the navigation through the app. Amazon’s WhisperSync feature that makes reading on Kindle devices and mobile/desktop apps seamless finds a neat, similar use in the app. You can start a video on one device and continue it from the same point on a second device like a Kindle Fire.

Xbox has become the center of entertainment offerings from Microsoft (Farewell Zune?). Microsoft has been building content partnerships progressively bringing the HBO Go app and Xfinity On Demand app to Xbox 360. The brand also enjoys a favorable buzz in the industry, unlike the often-messed up Windows Live or Zune, and the unification of entertainment options under the Xbox umbrella might just give Microsoft the right impetus for the next generation of Windows and Windows Phone.

Sennheiser Launches Xbox Gaming Headsets in India

Sennheiser has finally launched the internationally acclaimed and popular Xbox gaming headsets in India. These first ever headsets from Sennheiser specifically designed for Xbox have been honored with the 2012 Red Dot Design award. The Sennheiser gaming headsets – X320 and X2 – assist gamers in not just great audio experience but also communicating effectively with teammates or opponents. The headsets include features specifically developed for Xbox gaming and are backed by a worldwide warranty of two years.

Sennheiser X320


Priced at INR 7,990, the Sennheiser X320 has an outstanding open-acoustic design with their patented CircleFlex ear cups and is very comfortable when worn for hours of gaming as you indulge in a mission in Call of Duty. The amplified stereo sound boosts the Xbox 360’s audio experience while the pro-noise cancelling microphone ensures that only the gamer’s voice is heard. The headset comes with an interesting feature that allows gamers to mute the microphone by raising just the boom eliminating the need for buttons.

Sennheiser X2


If you are looking for an economical option, the Sennheiser X2 is priced at INR 1,790. The headset offers a great gaming experience and is very lightweight, although durable. The audio experience is uncompromised with precise speakers and noise cancelling microphones for an easy and effective communication with teammates or opponents.

Microsoft Seeking Skype For Xbox Software Engineer

Ever since Microsoft acquired Skype last year, there has been speculation that the company was going to bring Skype to the Xbox. And a new job posting on Microsoft Careers that Enconnected spotted pretty much confirms that this is the case. The listing is seeking a Software Engineer to join a dedicated Skype Xbox Engineering team in London, particularly one who has a great startup mentality:

Skype is seeking a motivated Software Engineer with an unrelenting drive for working on and solving customer-based issues. As a member of the Skype Xbox Engineering Team in London, you will have a strong technical background developing client and/or embedded software. Success in this role will likely be driven by your technical understanding, passion for shipping product, a user focus and an Agile approach to software development. The ideal candidate loves software and has a passion for writing code that addresses real customer issues and needs.

We didn’t exactly need confirmation that Skype was headed to the Xbox; ever since the acquisition, it was kind of a given that Microsoft would try to bring Skype to all of its products for the most part. Microsoft has already brought Skype to the Windows Phone in the form of a beta, but it could use quite a fair bit of work. For example, you cannot leave a call running in the background while performing actions on the device.

Next-Gen Xbox Rumored To Feature Blu-Ray Player

Contrary to a rumor which surfaced last month stating that the next Xbox will not have a disc drive at all, VG247 is hearing that the next-generation Xbox will have a Blu-ray drive. People have commonly assumed that, due to Sony’s involvement with the Blu-ray technology, Microsoft would never implement it in their console. However, this rumor certainly suggests otherwise.

VG247 is also reporting that they heard the following from various sources:

  • The next Xbox has been ‘detailed’ to select Microsoft partners.
  • Microsoft hopes to release the console by Christmas 2013.
  • An always-on connection will be required to fight piracy, similar to Steam on the PC.
  • On the hardware front, we can expect a four or six core CPU, with one core reserved for Kinect use and another for the OS. The console is also rumored to feature two GPUs, similar to the AMD 7000 series. However, the dual-GPU implementation is unlike Crossfire or SLI on the PC; the units will be able to independently function and draw separate items simultaneously, unlike on the PC where the GPUs work together to draw lines of the same object.
  • Kinect will be built into the device itself.

Now, don’t get your panties in a twist just yet; we’ll have to wait until 2013 to see if any of these rumors come to fruition (or if Microsoft will even release it that year; 2015 has also been rumored to be the release date of the next Xbox.) In conclusion, VG247 also reports that Microsoft will likely not announce anything related to the next Xbox until next year.

Microsoft Hires Former Sony Exec Phil Harrison

Microsoft announced earlier today that it has hired Phil Harrison to be the corporate vice president of its Interactive Entertainment Business team, specifically its European business.

Harrison is no stranger to the gaming industry; beginning his career as the head of development for Mindscape International in 1989, he then went on to join Sony in 1992. Throughout his time at the company from 1992 through 2008, he held various executive positions in both Europe and North America. After departing Sony in 2008, he went on to work for Infogrames Entertainment SA as their “Directeur Général Délégué”. He had also joined the Atari Board of Directors (going on to step down in 2010.) On top of his new job at Microsoft, he is continuing to serve as a special advisor to a venture capital firm that he co-founded, London Venture Partners, LLP.

“I am excited to be joining the senior team at Microsoft at a pivotal time for our industry,” said Harrison. “I am really impressed with the company’s long-term vision for growing the market for interactive entertainment globally and also with the incredible wealth of talent, technology and resources the company has available to succeed.”

With 25 years of experience in the industry under his belt, Harrison certainly is a great addition to Microsoft’s already highly successful IEB division. What will he be doing at the company? He has quite a fair bit of responsibility; the announcement notes that he will be in charge of the Microsoft Studios European organization, along with growing the IEB European business through “strategic partnerships” and by “bringing culturally relevant entertainment experiences to Microsoft platforms, now and in the future.”

Microsoft Reports Record Quarterly Revenue of $20.9 Billion, Net Profit of $6.6 Billion

Microsoft reported its quarterly results for Q4 2011 (Q2 FY2012), with revenue of around $20.9 billion and a net profit of more than $6.6 billion. It has been Microsoft’s best quarter in recent times, with revenue growth of around 5% year-over-year.

Following the earnings release, Microsoft’s stock price has jumped to a 52-week high of more than $29.7. It is still relatively undervalued compared to other tech giants, in terms of its P/E ratio.

2012 is going to be the year of Microsoft, with Windows 8 coming out in mid-2012. Windows Phone is also expected to gain more traction this year.

“We delivered solid financial results, even as we prepare for a launch year that will accelerate many of our key products and services,” said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer at Microsoft. “Coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show, we’re seeing very positive reviews for our new phones and PCs, and a strong response to our new Metro style design that will unify consumer experiences across our phones, PCs, tablets, and television in 2012.”

Microsoft generated $4.74 billion in revenue from Windows, down 6% primarily because Windows license sales have slowed down, as customers wait for the launch of Windows 8. Windows 7 sold almost 525 million licenses since launch, and Windows 8 will presumably sell even more, fueled by the growing popularity of tablets as well as ultrabooks.

It continued to generate loads of cash from the Business division, comprised mainly of Office, Dynamics, SharePoint etc. Revenue grew 3% to $6.28 billion. Revenue from Servers grew 11% this quarter, to $4.77 billion.

The Entertainment and Devices division showed the most revenue growth, with revenue growing around 15% to $4.24 billion, primarily because of stellar sales of the Xbox and Kinect. Microsoft has sold more than 66 million Xbox 360 consoles and around 18 million Kinect units to date. With Kinect for Windows launching in February, revenue from this division should jump higher in the next quarter.

Apple Moving Forward with New TV Plans

When Walter Isaacson was working on Steve Jobs’ biography, he revealed that Apple was working on a new TV. Steve Jobs even told Isaacson that he had “finally cracked it [TV].”

According to a new report by WSJ, Apple is now moving forward with its TV plans. Apple executives have been discussing their TV plans with executives from many large media companies.

Apple is currently working on technology which would respond to users’ voices and movements, and allow them to control their TV using voice commands and hand gestures. Apple’s current TV offering has failed any significant traction. Apple itself branded it as a hobby project when it failed to take off.

It isn’t clear whether Apple is working on new Apple TV hardware, or if it’s just working to find different ways to bring more content to Apple TV. WSJ reports that Apple has considered licensing content directly from media companies to create a subscription service.

Apparently, Apple’s TV device would use a version of AirPlay, which would allow users to control it from their iPhones and iPads. It would also allow users to watch their TV content on their iPhone or iPad, while on the move. Additionally, it will also enable users to stream content from their mobile devices to their TVs.

Television is one of the few traditional industries left which hasn’t yet been disrupted by the advances in technology. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all trying to gain control of the user’s living room. So far, none of them have really succeeded. Google TV has been a huge flop, while Microsoft has achieved only marginal success with Xbox Live.

The TV industry in the U.S. was worth nearly $150 billion in 2011. Given its history, Apple seems to be in the best position to negotiate content deals with the major players in the TV industry.

Microsoft Releases Xbox LIVE app for iOS

Oh boy, what do we have here? Good news for iOS devices owners who also own a Xbox. First it was OneNote for iOS, now they have released an official Xbox LIVE app (free) in Apple’s App Store. This release comes just a day after the launch of a new Dashboard update to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 gaming console.

Xbox Live iOS

The new app brings a Windows 8 feel to it, which is nice, but it just doesn’t feel like an iOS app in my opinion. Xbox LIVE for iOS brings some of the functionality found on the Xbox 360 consoles besides gameplay. The app allows users to access friends lists, game data, and messages through three main menus: “Home,” “Social” and “Games.”  In addition, the user interface is a blend of iOS swipe functionality with the tiled UI from Windows Phone 7. Icons and UI animations fade in and out like Windows Phone and is smooth with transitions.

Read and send messages to friends
Manage your friends list, invite new friends
Read and Edit your full LIVE profile (name, bio, motto)
Change your avatar features/items with the avatar closet
View and compare your achievement progress with friends

Microsoft’s new app is also optimized for the iPad, and uses a similar layout. The iPad app shows more content and detail. While Google releases crappy WebView apps for iOS, Microsoft releases polished apps for iOS. Just sayin’…

LOVEFiLM to Bring Streaming Movies and TV shows to Xbox LIVE

LOVEFiLM, Europe’s largest subscription service for streaming movies and TV shows over the Internet and sending DVDs by post, launches on Xbox LIVE tomorrow. This would allow millions of Xbox users instant access to the movies they want to watch. LOVEFiLM is an Amazon company.


Xbox LIVE members will be able to instantly watch thousands of movies via LOVEFiLM Instant the movie streaming service including exclusive content. LOVEFiLM Instant is already available via a huge range of devices including PCs, iPad, Internet-connected TV sets, Blu-ray players, tablets, and games consoles.

It is an exciting day for LOVEFiLM customers and an auspicious day for the TV entertainment industry as a whole. Launching LOVEFiLM Instant on Xbox 360 and Kinect means bringing the service to a million more living rooms a huge achievement.

– Simon Calver, CEO, LOVEFiLM

With Netflix launching in the UK next year (no announcement whether it would be available on the Xbox as yet), and BBC coming to Xbox LIVE next year, LOVEFiLM’s inclusion as an integrated film service provider for Xbox LIVE is well timed. LOVEFiLM is all set for its ambition to bring the service to as many homes as possible. Also, Kinect for Xbox 360 will transform the way people use LOVEFiLM Instant. With Kinect, people can effortlessly control the service using voice commands and gestures to search and enhance movie-watching experience. The LOVEFiLM app comes with a free 30 day trial and after that will require a subscription.

Next-Gen Xbox Might Come in Two Flavors

XboxThe Xbox 360 is still selling like hot cakes, but rumors surrounding the next-gen Xbox console are coming in thick and fast. The media has even come up with a tacky name for the Xbox 360 successor – “Xbox 720″! With conflicting rumors and absolutely no concrete information, it’s nigh impossible to figure out exactly what Microsoft has in store for us. However, one thing that is almost certain is that the next-gen Xbox won’t show up before 2013. The 360, along with its Kinect peripherals, are simply selling too well for Microsoft to consider a successor. As Digital Foundry rightly argues, Microsoft will essentially be cutting its profits if it releases a new console in 2012. A next-gen console demands state of the art production facilities and often has to be subsidized during the initial years.

Nevertheless, whenever the Xbox successor shows up, it will probably come in two flavors. Digital Foundry believes that Microsoft will release a stripped down version of the next-gen Xbox that will essentially act as a set-top box and support casual arcade and Kinect games. The lower-end device will help Microsoft in tackling the challenge posed by WiiU. The second full-powered system will be targeted at hardcore gamers and compete with Sony’s PlayStation 4. It will feature an optical drive, a hard disk and backward compatibility with 360 games to entice the audience that doesn’t mind paying a premium.