I was figuring Microsoft might be holding off on announcing the beta of its Kinect software development kit (SDK) until E3. I also figured there might be some new Kinect games and possibly also the unveiling of the final version of the Avatar Kinect technology there. Others are speculating that Microsoft might be ready to launch a Google TV competitor or something trademarked "Fusion."
But the May 31 blog post by Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications at Microsoft, now has me wondering whether Microsoft may take the wraps off something bigger at the upcoming game conference.
Maybe the "big reveal" will be Project Orapa. For those who need a quick codename refresher, Orapa is the working name for a combination of Xbox Live and Microsoft’s Mediaroom IPTV. It would give Microsoft a way to turn TV into a service that it could deliver to Xbox customers first, and Windows, Windows Phone and set-top-box customers, later.
From Shaw's May 31 post:
"The vision for Xbox is straightforward: All of the entertainment you want. With the people you care about. Made easy. That is why you’ve seen us invest in partnerships with ESPN, Netflix and Hulu. That is why we’ve baked social directly into the experience with Xbox LIVE – connecting gamers, friends and families across the globe. That is why you’ll see Xbox marketed more as an entertainment brand this year. And that is why we’re investing so much in Natural User Interface technologies (speech, touch, gestures) to make the entertainment experience that much easier—and more fun. With Kinect, we’ve made NUI real for millions of people, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible."
What's one Microsoft project that combines all of these elements? Orapa. If Microsoft could deliver an Orapa application for Xbox, it potentially could provide Xbox Live subscribers with TV, social-networking, music, video (via the coming "Ventura" services) and Kinect integration. With the Xbox as a centerpiece, users could control their TV settings via gestures and voice with Kinect.
Last I heard, Microsoft's goal was to finalize the Orapa version 1 code base by July and make it available to customers via holiday 2011. Version 1 of Orapa is going to require Mediaroom's underlying infrastructure to work. Version 2 supposedly will be cloud-hosted, from what my contacts are telling me.