A year later, we still don’t have Xbox 360 Mediaroom (Microsoft’s version of IPTV). For the second CES keynote, Microsoft has touted the feature, spotlighting British Telecom as the first to roll of the feature… just not right now.
But, perpetual delay is not the problem with Xbox 360 IPTV (for me, at least). The problem is that Xbox 360’s IPTV implementation just doesn’t play nicely with all of Microsoft’s other offerings. The Xbox 360 IPTV stack is essentially a PowerPC-ported version of the MS IPTV client which runs on a variety of embedded set-top boxes (STB’s). Like Windows Media Center Extender in Xbox 360, the code inside is relatively unchanged, but because it’s Microsoft hardware, Microsoft can plug in added optimizations to bolster the platform. For historical example, Xbox 360 was the first Media Center Extender to support HDTV, the rest were instantly obsoleted.
The problem with Xbox 360’s IPTV software, is that unlike Xbox 360 Media Center Extender, you can’t connect with any other PC. The software can’t store TV shows on your PC or on your Windows Home Server, or on anything other than an Xbox Hard Drive. So, once your initial 20 GB (120 if you have an Xbox 360 Elite) is full (which will happen quickly, especially with HD recordings), your only option is to purchase a second Xbox hard drive. And, unlike eSATA drives, Microsoft gets to crank up the cost to astronomical figures (the 120 GB hard drive retails for over $100).
And, to add insult to injury, Microsoft’s Xbox Hard Drive is in-fact just an eSATA drive in a special box with a special connector. Oh, and there’s no way to buy just the box, in fact, Microsoft may ban your Xbox 360 from online use for crafting your own hard drive. Don’t even think about using a USB 2.0 hard drive, Microsoft has neutered that ability since day one for anything other than playing back stored content (in other words, you can bring in content from a PC, you just can’t save content from your Xbox to the very same external hard drive).
To put it bluntly, if you say to your IPTV-provider “no thanks, I’ll pass on your free HD-DVR, my Xbox does that for free”, you’re going to burn more money on spare hard drives to record content. That’s a losing proposition for the Xbox 360 owner, and thus, is a losing proposition for IPTV-on-Xbox.
There are a couple of resolutions to this, in my opinion. One is to add network storage, something Microsoft should have done a long time ago for the entire Xbox platform (the XDE’s (Xbox 360 applications and content) are encrypted, and it’s not like folks can’t get at them if they really want to already). The other, is to add transcoding support, so that users can plug in Windows Mobile devices and Zunes into the Xbox 360, and copy the TV shows over to those devices. That will at least give folks a place to store them other than the device (and back them up on their computers).
Until that happens though, my only advice would be to add IPTV Xbox 360 in addition to your existing IPTV receiver. And, that’s assuming your IPTV provider doesn’t tack on some whacky monthly charge to give you the permission of using Xbox 360 with their IPTV service.
AT&T, which offers its U-Verse IPTV service under the Mediaroom platform, has yet to announce support for Xbox 360 as a U-Verse device.