December 5, 2011, 4:38 PM

Much more than games: Xbox 360 streams shows from Amazon

The upgrade to the Microsoft console includes movie content from Amazon.

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Consumers with Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 game console soon will have a larger variety of entertainment to access, including streaming videos from Amazon.com Inc. The move, announced today, indicates that televisions, the web and perhaps Internet retailing are moving ever closer together.

Microsoft says that throughout the month, it will upgrade its Xbox Live online entertainment offering to include the ability to watch on-demand TV shows and movies, and to search for shows via voice commands—something gamers already can do with the Kinect peripheral device for Xbox—and via the Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Depending on what countries they live in, consumers this month will be able to watch content from such providers as ESPN, Hulu, Hulu Plus, Netflix, MSNBC and the U.K-based and Amazon-owned LoveFilm.

“A new era in entertainment begins where all your entertainment is together in one place—your games, movies, TV shows, music and sports,” says Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business. “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.”

Microsoft is No. 68 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Amazon is No. 1.

The available content will be vast. For instance, Amazon says it will offer consumers in the United Kingdom thousands of movies via instant streaming, at a cost that starts at 4.99 British pounds (US$7.80) per month. “Launching LoveFilm Instant on Xbox 360 and Kinect means bringing the service to a million living rooms,” says Simon Calver, CEO of LoveFilm.

The launch of the service also moves the world closer to what Forrester Research Inc. analyst James McQuivey calls “engaged TV”—a term he prefers over the hoary “interactive TV,” which to him represents years of unfulfilled promise.

“This is now the benchmark against which all other living-room initiatives should be compared, from cable or satellite set top boxes to Apple’s widely rumored TV to the 3.0 version of Google TV that Google will have to start programming as soon as they see this,” he says. He estimates that 57 million consumers around the world own the Xbox, with another 15 million possessing the Kinect device. “Microsoft has not only built the right experience, it has ensured that it will spread quickly and with devastating effect.”

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