Xbox 360 getting some kind of TV service this holiday season

Microsoft may be taking another step towards metamorphosing your Xbox 360 gaming system into your Xbox 360 entertainment hub this winter. According to CNN, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer mentioned on an earnings call that an Xbox-based TV experience would launch this holiday season.

Details are very slim. Ballmer said that Microsoft would be working with "dozens or hundreds of additional video content suppliers" in order to supply content for the service. So is this an alternative to cable? Or something more akin to Apple TV where we'll be able to buy or rent TV episodes and movies?

Well, Microsoft already offers the latter on the 360 via their Zune Video Marketplace, and they already offer Netflix, so we're not talking about that either. In fact Ballmer apparently told attendees that the sevice would offer live television, as well as "news, sports, and your favorite channels."

It's hard to imagine the cable companies staying quiet while Microsoft builds a system that circumvents their choke hold on the TV industry. The best bet, in my opinion, is that it'll be a system similar to Google TV, but one where you'll sign in to your existing cable account to gain access to live TV via the Xbox 360 (similar to how many tablet apps work currently), and Microsoft will then mix in online video sources as well.

The big draw here is the use of Microsoft Kinect and Bing in the interface. So instead of reaching for the remote, you just tell Kinect what you want to watch. This was demoed during the call via a Microsoft employee simply saying "Xbox," then "Bing" and finally "The Office" to bring up listings for the popular sit-com.

I don't know about you, but this would be enough for me to bypass my cable box and its clunky remote and painful letter-by-letter search for content.

The holiday season will be here before you know it, so we should learn more details about this new service very soon.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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