I moderated a panel session on IPTV content at CES 2009 last week, but one of the topics our panelists-and audience members--quickly turned to was the death of the traditional set-top box and the rise of alternative options, such as the Xbox 360. Indeed, in many places on the show floor-not just in Microsoft's booth-you could overhear conversations about the utility of the Xbox 360 as an IPTV STB. At about the same time, Microsoft reportedly was telling Gizmodo that field trials of Xbox 360 as an IPTV STB are underway in the U.K., presumably with BT (I visited Microsoft at the show, too, and they didn't mention this, but I guess I missed out by only asking questions about the new Mediaroom Anytime capability).
The Xbox idea is nothing new, since the gaming platform was initially positioned in that direction way back at CES 2007 by that Bill Gates fellow. However, as sometimes happens, it appears that the idea is set to take off only after that initial buzz nearly fizzled out. Still, it is not clear how soon BT, AT&T or any other IPTV carrier partnered with Microsoft will commercialize the idea.
This week, market research firm NPD Group added further fuel to the conversation, saying that the Xbox sold more than 1.4 million units in December, putting it behind Nintendo's platform for the month, but ahead of Sony's. December reportedly was the best sales month ever for the Xbox 360, and ended its biggest year yet. That may soothe observers who felt the gaming platform market might suffer from a holiday season weakened by recession. It also may boost the confidence of telecom industry folks who are wondering exactly what kind of platform will replace the traditional STB.
Microsoft announced Mediaroom Anytime at CES 2009
Bill Gates hyped the Xbox 360 as an IPTV STB at CES 2007