Talking tech since 2003

A couple years ago, Microsoft started getting really serious about integrating live TV broadcasts into its Xbox 360 gaming (and, let’s be honest, entertainment) console. Back where my brother lives on Long Island, he grabbed the Verizon FiOS app, and could watch television live right from his console. Here in Minneapolis, we were stuck with the Comcast app, which is on-demand, limited, and also kind of sucks. Today, Microsoft has added yet another piece of its TV-watching puzzle to the Xbox 360 with the launch of the Time Warner Cable app, which we’d first learned about back in June.

Like the Verizon app, the Time Warner app brings live, streaming television content to your TV through your Xbox 360 console—but only if you’re a current subscriber to Time Warner Cable, of course. In reality, the app doesn’t do much that simply switching the inputs on your TV couldn’t already do. But depending on your TWC package, you may be able to simply disconnect your cable box and free up some precious entertainment console real estate.

Moreover, the launch of the app today also further cements Microsoft’s transition from being in the game business to being in the entertainment business. Earlier this summer I speculated as much after both Microsoft and Sony revealed their competing game consoles at E3. And while Microsoft has since then made a few concessions for its game-focused customers, the Xbox One will have television streaming capabilities built right into the hardware. No apps necessary…and no need to ever turn your console off.

That’s the big thing that Microsoft’s doing here is creating a closed ecosystem so that users will never ever have to leave the confines of its products. While hitting the input button isn’t that hard, isn’t it so convenient to easily and seamlessly switch to watching TV without even doing that? And better than that (according to Microsoft’s strategy) will be the Kinect-enabled voice commands that let you do all this without even pushing a button.

The fact that the Time Warner Cable app has come for the Xbox 360 now—when the new version of the device will launch this fall—points to Microsoft’s commitment to its product line and long-term strategy. After all, while there are going to be plenty of launch day Xbox One purchases, not everyone will upgrade, and there are an awful lot of Xbox 360s out there that will remain in use after the early adopters make the transition to next-generation. Don’t be surprised to find out about even more entertainment options for the Xbox 360 long after the Xbox One launches later this year.

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