Can Microsoft beat Apple and Google and successfully 'appify' the TV?

According to Microsoft, this new dashboard is where 'a new era in entertainment begins.'

Microsoft is planning to roll out a new dashboard update for its Xbox 360 console tomorrow that will see custom apps from a range of TV and entertainment content providers being made available. Is Microsoft looking to transform the Xbox from a games console to a TV connected PC?

According to Microsoft, this new dashboard is where 'a new era in entertainment begins.' Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, had this to say:

"A new era in entertainment begins where all your entertainment is together in one place - your games, movies, TV shows, music and sports. With this update, Xbox 360 system owners will experience Kinect voice control integrated with Bing search, making your TV and entertainment experiences more social and personal than ever."

Google launched Google TV earlier this year, and that venture failed. Apple's had AppleTV for a few years now but there doesn't seem to be much mainstream consumer interest in the device. Microsoft's been clever and taken a different approach - it sold people a games console and it's now transforming it into something that resembles a PC.

At the core of this update is the ability to for the console to run custom apps. At present these custom apps are to pipe additional media content to the Xbox, but where these apps lead, more will follow. Blogger Long Zheng peers into his crystal ball and sees where this might be going:

Who’s to say there can’t be a Flickr app for browsing gorgeous photos, educational apps for kids, communication apps like Skype and even Kinect-enabled apps like those shown in “The Kinect Effect” ad.

I see no reason why that couldn't happen.

Some 56 million Xbox 360 units have been shipped (it's hard to tell how many are dead), and some 35 million are connected to the internet, so it's only logical that Microsoft leverage this platform with apps. The hardware ecosystem is already there and it's would be a no-brainer for developers to jump on board and start creating custom apps for the platform - apps that will take the Xbox 360 games console and transform it into a TV connected PC. All the elements are there for a successful app ecosystem - a payment system, internet connectivity, large user base and existing developer interest - all Microsoft needs to do is to start leveraging.

As much as this announcement excites me, it also depresses me. No matter how cool the Xbox 360 is, it's still old technology. Six-year-old technology. It's so old that now that it's not just throttling gaming experience on the console, it's holding back gaming on the PC. It's not likely that we'll see a new Xbox until 2014.

So yes, apps on the Xbox is a great idea, but I just wish that it was on new hardware rather than six-year-old hardware.

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