News Corp. content from Twentieth Century Fox Films, Fox Television, Fox News and The Wall Street Journal will be available on the Xbox device starting in February, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced at the opening of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday.
The initiative continues to transform the popular gaming console into an entertainment and news hub, with Ballmer counting Xbox Live subscribers at 40 million.
“This is an all-in-one entertainment device for the living room,” Ballmer told interviewer Ryan Seacrest. “These are all experiences available now.”
Ballmer also announced Xbox partnerships with Comcast — bringing its Xfinity video streaming to the device — as well as Sesame Street, which will offer viewers what Microsoft is calling "two-way television," an interactive experience with their favorite characters.
To demonstrate, a young girl came on stage to toss imaginary coconuts into the Sesame Street scene. In another demonstration, the little girl actually was able to jump into the scene and be part of the interplay with the Sesame Street characters.
"You move away from a one-way experience where you're just watching TV to a two-way experience where your engage with your TV," Ballmer said. At one point, the thought of interactive entertainment prompted him to blow a kiss to the audience.
While all of that new content will debut some time later this year, the next big Microsoft update comes in February with Windows 8, the latest version of its iconic operating sytem. Kinect, which enhances all of the Xbox content by enabling users to do everything with gestures and voice – rather than a standard controller – is coming with it.
This being Microsoft’s final keynote at CES – so they say – it is fitting that when asked by Seacrest "What’s next?" Ballmer replied "Windows 8 is what's next."
The bulk of the program was devoted to Windows in some form, whether it be Windows Phone, Windows 8, or the "metro" user interface that exists on Xbox Live as well.
In case one did not get the message, Ballmer's closing words were "Metro Metro Metro. Windows Windows Windows."
Those capped off a session that began with a lengthy tribute to the game-changing technology company, as Consumer Electronics Association chief Gary Shapiro compared Microsoft to the founding fathers — and this wasn't the first time he has made such a comparison.
Kaplan predicted Microsoft would return to the main stage in the next few years, and whether or not it does, one can be sure home entertainment will have changed quite a lot.
If Ballmer has any say in it, Microsoft will be at the center of it.