Xbox Owns the Living Room: Improved Voice Control, Streaming Music, and Tons of New Non-Gaming Content

By Michael Carney , written on June 4, 2012

From The News Desk

The Xbox franchise has been about more than gaming for a while. At today’s press conference ahead of the E3 conference, Microsoft unveiled some more impressive additions to its non-gaming content portfolio.

The company’s head of marketing and strategy Yusuf Mehdi took the stage, saying, “We love entertainment, not just games and movies, but music, television, and sports.”

Proving his point, last year Microsoft made available 200 million pieces of content. Through the addition Bing voice search, it says that search was made four times faster.

This year, Microsoft and Xbox are taking this a step further, adding search by genre. With this new interface, users can speak “Xbox: Bing comedies,” or “Xbox: Bing action” and be transported to a catalog of content in these categories.

Mehdi also announced that they’ve made viewing as easy as searching. When a user speaks the name of a title, such as  “Xbox Killer Elite,” they get access to watch instantly through multiple subscription networks such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Cinema Now.

This year, Microsoft is expanding its voice control to 12 additional countries, offering access to half a billion more people. In his demo, Mehdi toured Bing Voice Search Mexico, navigating the system entirely in Spanish and receiving localized content where appropriate. It was extremely fluid and rather impressive.

Microsoft is also adding to its current brand partners, including HBO Go, Xfinity TV (US), BBC (UK). They mentioned four of 35 new entertainment providers including Nickelodeon, Paramount Movies, Machinima, and Univision.

In addition, the company announced Xbox Music, a streaming service with over 30 million songs.

Sports is where the company’s presentation really shined. The company is expanding beyond its MBL TV and UFC coverage introduced last year to now offer NBA basketball and hockey via the NHL Game Center.

They’ve also brought aboard the undisputed leader in sports coverage, ESPN. Through this partnership, Xbox users will get 24/7 live programming through ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, and ESPN-U including SportsCenter, SportsNation, and coverage of the NFL, MLB, and NBA, live and in HD.

Roll these together, and Microsoft has done the best job to date of “owning the living room.” Apple and Google have some serious work to do to catch up to the content lineup Microsoft described today.