Cable boxes could be rendered useless by gaming consoles

Summary:Microsoft is reportedly adding services from two major cable providers to its Xbox Live line-up, which begs the question: Do we even need cable boxes anymore?

Microsoft is reportedly negotiating deals with approximately two dozen providers of music, sports, movies and TV shows in the United States and Europe for the purpose of expanding its Xbox Live streaming service, according to Bloomberg.

That announcement could come by next week (and could coincide with the potential debut of a cheaper Zune Music Pass). What's more intriguing is that Bloomberg says that Microsoft is in talks with Comcast and Verizon to bring their paid-television services to the Xbox as well.

If that turns out to be true, pretty soon, cable boxes could end being set aside in place of gaming consoles. After all, who wants two boxes and more wires when they could just have one?

Gaming consoles are on track to become the center of the home entertainment system because they alone (at least for now) have the power to offer consumers HD and advanced gaming, movies, photos and more all in one compact system.

Devices such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (as well as set-top boxes like Roku and Apple TV) offer an incredible amount of video content, whether it be new or old. That has been made possible thanks to apps from the likes of Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and most of the major sports leagues, among others. Now, if you could get live, cable TV on one of these systems as well, then that just completes the package.

Of course, this isn't exactly happening yet, and there are a few obvious roadblocks.

First, if Microsoft really does bring on Comcast’s Xfinity TV service and Verizon’s FiOs platform, users would have to prove that they are already pay for these subscriptions, which suggests that that they still need to have the cable boxes -- at least for the time being unless Microsoft announces that they can buy subscriptions directly through Xbox Live.

But then there's another barrier -- you'd have to pay for the Xbox Live service, which ranges in price based on monthly, quarterly and yearly rates. So this route definitely wouldn't be cheaper, and it won't clear up the clutter of boxes on your TV stand immediately. But it is pointing in the direction of consolidating content sources in the living room.

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Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Networking, Telcos

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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