Xbox 360 Sees Record Growth in 2009

Year-over-year growth jumps as Xbox 360 console sales hit 30
million globally and Xbox LIVE community reaches 20 million users.

REDMOND, Wash. — May 28, 2009 — Microsoft Corp.
announced today that sales of Xbox 360 consoles have passed the 30 million mark
globally, with its Xbox LIVE community swelling to more than 20 million active
members. After the biggest year in its history in 2008, Xbox 360 achieved the
highest percentage growth in hardware sales of any console so far in 2009, up
28 percent over the previous year.1

The success of the platform can be measured across the
business, with Xbox LIVE now considered the world’s largest global
entertainment network. Increasing consumer desire to connect with friends,
download and enjoy blockbuster movies and TV shows, and extend the life of
their favorite games has been the primary driver behind the growth of Xbox LIVE
membership and the reason Xbox continues to expand offerings on the platform.

“We’ve always been confident that Xbox 360 offers more
entertainment value than any other console on the market, and these latest
numbers show that consumers agree,” said Don Mattrick, senior vice president of
the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “We expect our growth to
continue to accelerate. Our news at E3 next week will underscore our commitment
to bringing blockbuster entertainment experiences to everyone and to growing
the Xbox entertainment brand globally.”

Over the course of this console generation, U.S. consumers
alone have spent $14.5 billion across all categories on Xbox 360 at retail.1
This number reflects strong interest in a comprehensive entertainment offering
that includes the ability to connect with others socially and to digitally
download entertainment, be it games, TV shows or movies. To date, consumers
have downloaded nearly 1 billion pieces of gaming and entertainment content
from Xbox LIVE Marketplace, including a broad array of premium high- and
standard-definition movies and TV shows from top studios and networks around
the world.2

In addition, Xbox 360 continues to be the platform of choice
for the industry’s top games, generating $5.9 billion in sales to date at U.S.
retail for third-party publishers, which is more than those of
current-generation consoles combined.1 Xbox 360 also leads
current-generation consoles in game purchases, with consumers owning an average
of 8.3 titles each.1

Activity on Xbox LIVE, the industry-leading online gaming
and entertainment service, surged following the launch of the New Xbox
Experience in November 2008. Since that time, the community has recorded a 136
percent increase in new members, TV and movie downloads have more than doubled,
and purchases of games, Game Add-ons and more on Xbox LIVE Arcade have
increased by 70 percent.2 Xbox LIVE reaches 26 countries worldwide
and is now in more homes than any satellite television provider.2
Before the end of the year, the number of Xbox LIVE members will surpass the
number of subscribers to the largest cable provider.1 Consumers can
expect more exciting announcements from Microsoft next week as Xbox 360 kicks
off the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the world’s premier trade show for
computer and video games and related products, with its press briefing on
Monday, June 1, in Los Angeles.

About Xbox 360

Xbox 360 is a premier video game and entertainment system.
It is home to the best and broadest games plus more entertainment than any
other device connected to the TV. The digital center of the living room, Xbox
360 blends unbeatable content, including personal pictures and music, with a
unified online social network to create a limitless entertainment experience
that can be shared at home or across the globe. More information can be found
online at http://www.xbox.com/xbox360.

About Xbox LIVE

Xbox LIVE is the most comprehensive gaming and entertainment
network connected to your television, delivering the largest movie, TV music
and gaming library on a single device, and instant access to select movies and
TV shows.

With an active community of more than 20 million people
across 26 countries, Xbox LIVE brings friends together — from the same living
room or around the globe — to share the best in home entertainment. With an
Xbox LIVE Gold Membership, enjoy exclusive benefits and premium access to
movies, music, TV and games from the top studios and services, all in one
place. More information can be found online at http://www.xbox.com/en-us/live.

Microsoft Announces the Expansion of the Zune Entertainment Service to New Platform and Markets; Confirms New Zune HD Portable Media Player

Premium Zune digital entertainment service to be available
internationally on Xbox LIVE.

REDMOND, Wash. — May 26, 2009 — Microsoft Corp. today
announced the evolution of Zune, the company’s end-to-end music and
entertainment service, to a new platform and new markets. Zune will extend its
video service to Xbox LIVE internationally this fall. This marks an important
development in the Zune strategy and brings the Zune brand to more than 17
million international Xbox LIVE subscribers. In addition, Microsoft confirmed
the next generation of the Zune portable media player, Zune HD. Available in the
U.S. this fall, Zune HD is the first portable media player that combines a
built-in HD Radio receiver, high-definition (HD) video output capabilities,
organic light-emitting diode (OLED) touch screen, Wi-Fi and an Internet
browser.

“The Zune music player is an integral part of the overall
Zune experience, and we’re proud to be growing and extending our offering
beyond the device,” said Enrique Rodriguez, corporate vice president of the
Microsoft TV, Video and Music Business Group. “Delivering on Microsoft’s
connected entertainment vision, this news marks a turning point for Zune as it
brings cross-platform experiences and premium video content to living rooms
around the world.”

Zune Service Expands to New Platform

Zune will be a premium partner in the Xbox LIVE Video
Marketplace, bringing an exciting catalog of TV and film to the platform. Zune
will occupy the first slot within the Xbox user interface in the Xbox LIVE
Video Marketplace, exposing the Zune brand experience to millions of new
consumers for the first time. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) next
week, attendees will see firsthand how Zune integrates into Xbox LIVE to create
a game-changing entertainment experience.

Introducing Zune HD

  • Zune HD is the next iteration of the Zune device family and
    brings a new level of listening and viewing experiences to the portable media
    player category.
  • Zune HD comes with a built-in HD Radio receiver so users can
    listen to higher-quality sound than traditional radio on the go. Users also
    will have access to the additional song and artist data broadcast by HD Radio
    stations as well as additional channels from their favorite stations
    multicasting in HD. If you don’t like the song playing on your station’s HD
    channel, switch to its HD2 or HD3 channels for additional programming.
  • The bright OLED touch screen interface allows users to flip
    through music, movies and other content with ease, and the 16:9 widescreen
    format display (480×272 resolution) offers a premium viewing experience on the
    go.
  • The HD-compatible output lets Zune HD customers playback
    supported HD video files from the device through a premium high-definition
    multimedia interface (HDMI) audiovisual docking station (sold separately)
    direct to an HD TV in 720p.*
  • Zune HD will include a full-screen Internet browser optimized
    for multitouch functionality.
  • Zune HD is Wi-Fi enabled, allowing for instant streaming to
    the device from the more than 5 million-track Zune music store.

Does Home Server & Media Center Mean a Connected Future?

Preface: Before you read
this please try and get in the right mindset. 
Microsoft doesn’t care about what anyone reading this blog wants.  They don’t care what I want either.  It is a hard truth to take, but that’s a
fact.  They will say that they listen to
all requests, and that’s true, they do. 
What they don’t do is make any sort of business decision (translation,
features) based on my ramblings, The Green Button, Engadget, or anyone else.  They don’t make Media Center for “us”,
and before anyone can start to understand the points I try and make about
Windows Home Server you have to realize this. 
You also have to understand that Media Center has not taken the market
by storm, and that six years into it the vision simply isn’t working to achieve
the goal Microsoft originally set out achieve (hints shift in marketing).  Knowing this, please continue.

Note: I don’t work for
Microsoft, this post reflects my personal opinion.

Ben
Drawbaugh has an excellent post on what he perceives to be the future of
Windows Media Center
, and that’s its integration with Windows Home
Server.  Ben’s post is excellent, running
down a logical path of what Microsoft should do with the assets they currently
have.  You take Windows Media Center and
integrate it with Windows Home Server, sell it for $500 and users can add
tuners later.  Add in Live Mesh, Zune HD
syncing, and really connect the dots for a truly logical integrated product.

Now, maybe it is because I’ve been following Media Center a
bit longer than Ben, but why all the sudden is Microsoft going to “get it” and
integrate everything in the logical manor it should be?  Why does the introduction of Windows Home
Server mean everything will “just work?”

Here’s the deal.  It
is clear to me that Microsoft’s shift in customer marketing means the concept
of a whole home connected device with Media Center as its core isn’t
working.  Why else would Microsoft shift
to pushing “TV
on your PC?”
 It just doesn’t make
sense to me that Microsoft would shift the culture and marketing of Media
Center, and then turn around and integrate everything the way it should be.  You can see the shift in their marketing as well.

  • 2007/early 2008: “Windows Media Center turns the home PC into the ultimate connected entertainment hub and is available in every copy of Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate.”
  • Today: “…builds on Microsoft’s goal to create a consistent experience on the PC for consumers to easily enjoy the entertainment of greatest interest to them.”

I’ve said for years that I
don’t see the market value in Home Server mixed with Media Center
.  I consistently get crap for this, but that’s
because everyone reading this wants exactly what I say doesn’t make sense to
produce, or rather what will not help Media Center in the marketplace. How many
people here are not using Media Center strictly because it requires them to run
two separate PCs in their home?  How many
sales are lost because of the current infrastructure?  How many sales do you gain by integrating the
two?  Have you opened up a significantly
new market by doing so?  I can’t come up
with any answers that benefit Media Center from these questions.

If Microsoft is having trouble pushing Media Center in homes
for whole home connected entertainment, the solution is not to integrate it
with a product that even fewer people understand (a “Home Server”).  The solution is actually to change paths and
try something completely different.  Sometimes
redefining a product is needed to keep it alive.

So does this mean I don’t think Microsoft will integrate
Media Center with Home Server?  No, I
think the opposite.  Last year I got a
tip that something
is coming as a “headless” device
, and I haven’t heard anything to say that
has gone away.  It would be perfectly
fine to suggest anything “headless” that comes out of Microsoft would be based
on Home Server.

So I’ve established that I think a Home Server with Media
Center integration will happen, and at the same time that the product will not
have a significant amount of mass market value over that of the current model.  Microsoft’s future for connected platforms
does include exactly what they say it will. 
The “3 screens,” which spans the PC, the phone, and the TV.  The way I see it PC = Windows 7, Phone =
Windows Phone (aka Windows Mobile), TV = Xbox 360.  I don’t see any need for Media Center as a
whole home device in their grand vision, which is why I’m questioning the concept of Microsoft getting things right just by the
inclusion of Media Center into Home Server
.

Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong.  I’m hoping I’m wrong, but given the way
things have been going, especially with Extenders (which in the case of a
headless device are key), I don’t see such a product making any impact in the
marketplace.  More so, I don’t see
Microsoft investing the time to use Media Center as the core for the home.  Media Center isn’t dying, it isn’t coming out
of Windows, but I continue to think the focus will shift.  Microsoft will still work with partners on
Extenders (I’ve been assured of this), but they will still release products and
features that forget these Extender’s even existed.  They will connect your life, but they will
not connect your life using Media Center.

What is your opinion?

The Story Behind Netflix for Windows Media Center

Today Microsoft released their native
Netflix application for Windows Media Center
to much fanfare.  The release comes with a catch, but let’s
back up a bit before we get to that.

I’ve talked about the need for Microsoft to get Netflix
within the Media Center ecosystem, and ever since Reed Hastings joined
Microsoft’s board I
knew it was coming
.  A year ago
Microsoft announced Netflix would be coming to the Xbox 360 Dashboard and that
rekindled my thoughts about the Xbox
360 being Media Center biggest enemy in the marketplace
.  Today those thoughts are confirmed once again
by the Netflix application for Media Center not supporting Media Center
Extenders.

I’ve been testing the Netflix application for a few weeks
now.  Upon downloading the first beta I
read  the release notes which talked
about Extender’s not being supported.  I
figured this was something that would change. 
Sadly, it didn’t and was planned at all. 
I didn’t think I’d get to post this part because it was told to me under
NDA, but TechFlash
actually posted it so I’m in the clear. 
Part of the reason Extender’s are not supported is because Microsoft
wants to make sure they don’t compete with the Xbox 360 Dashboard.

 Leaving the technical
aspects of getting Silverlight to an Extender aside, this represents a huge
problem and once again confirms to me that Microsoft will continue to push and
promote the Xbox 360 Dashboard over that of the Extender platform.

Fellow MVP Richard Miller asked if
I would rather Microsoft have not released the Netflix application
, and it
isn’t so much that I think Microsoft shouldn’t have released, but what I really
want is Microsoft to define who Media Center is for (do I sound like a broken
record yet?) and the future of some basic items like Extenders (I’ll have
another post on this later, but Microsoft keeps assuring me Extender’s are not “dead”).

A few months ago I
suggested that Microsoft was changing directions with Media Center
to the
more customer friendly “TV on your PC” concept. 
I took a bit of flack from Microsoft on the post who suggested that
wasn’t the case.  Maybe is it and maybe
it isn’t.  Correct or not, I’ll stick to
my story because it seems like everything that comes out confirms my
suspicions.

Back to the Netflix application, the delivery of this is the
future of Media Center.  Just like
Internet TV, the Netflix application was automatically pushed to Media Center
without any initial user interaction.  If
they can just improve the installation it will be much more beneficial to end
users.  While the interface is very
intuitive I don’t have my Media Center connected to a TV.  Given this, I find Netflix’s website more
convenient.  Moving forward, if the whole
“TV on your PC” thing catches on this will be a huge issue of mine.  Media Center was designed as a 10-foot
interface, using it as a 2-foot interface is kind of tricky and it’s not as intuitive
as it could be.  This has improved with Windows 7, but I
would still rather use a website to find such basic content and leave the
10-foot UI where it belongs.

Microsoft and Netflix Enhance Movie and TV Watching on the PC

Latest content addition offers more than 12,000 choices
of movies and TV episodes that can be watched instantly on a PC with Windows.

REDMOND, Wash. — May
19, 2009 —
Microsoft Corp. today announced that more than 12,000 movies and
TV episodes from Netflix Inc., the world’s largest online movie rental service,
are now available to watch instantly on the PC using Windows Media Center on
PCs with Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate. This newest content addition
builds on Microsoft’s goal to create a consistent experience on the PC for
consumers to easily enjoy the entertainment of greatest interest to them.

With Windows Media Center, consumers no longer need to jump
from Web site to Web site to find the TV shows, movies, sports and news they
want to watch. Windows Vista customers who are also Netflix members can simply
start Windows Media Center on their PC and then select the new Netflix tile
under TV+Movies to begin streaming movies and TV episodes instantly. People can
also search the entire Netflix library, manage both their instant and DVD
Queues, and even filter searches by titles that are available to watch
instantly. Windows Media Center takes advantage of the Netflix recommended
category lists to make it even easier to quickly find the movies and TV shows
that consumers want to watch. Conveniently, Netflix in Windows Media Center is
also designed to work with any Windows Media Center-compatible remote control.

The availability of Netflix in Windows Media Center marks
the second recent content milestone for Windows, following the March 2009
launch of the Sports Channel, which offers a variety of interactive sports
content from CBSSports.com, FOX Sports, MSNBC.com and more.

“Netflix is excited that the majority of the Windows Vista
users in the U.S. can now access a vast array of movies and TV episodes from
Netflix through Windows Media Center,” said Steve Swasey, vice president of
corporate communications. “There’s no better way to enjoy movies than with
Netflix, and this latest offering is another milestone that gives Windows Media
Center customers a great experience using the Netflix service.”

The Netflix instant watching in Windows Media Center is
powered by Microsoft Silverlight, one of the industry’s most comprehensive and
powerful solutions for the creation and delivery of applications and media
experiences. The use of Silverlight means that customers will have more
accessible, more discoverable and more secure experiences. Windows Media Center
is available on Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate.

In addition to Windows Media Center users, Xbox 360 system
owners already have access to watch movies and TV episodes instantly from
Netflix via an Xbox LIVE Gold Membership. The offerings through both platforms
allow customers to enjoy more than 12,000 movies and TV episodes.

“We’re continuing to work with the top content providers
today to make watching TV on the PC a mainstream experience for the future,”
said Craig Eisler corporate vice president of entertainment client software for
the TV, Video and Music Business Group at Microsoft. “Consumers understand that
content is the driving force when it comes to experiences, and with Netflix,
we’re underscoring our broader commitment to deliver a rich experience with
Windows Media Center.”

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide
leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses
realize their full potential.

Microsoft, Media Center Integrator Alliance Announce 2009 Ultimate Install Contest

Co-sponsoring this
year’s contest with Media Center Integrator Alliance, Microsoft again seeks
best residential project design based on Windows Media Center in custom
installation industry.

ORLANDO, Fla. — March 12, 2009 Today at the Electronic House Expo in
Orlando, Microsoft Corp., in cooperation with co-sponsor Media Center
Integrator Alliance, announced the 2009 Windows Media Center Ultimate Install
Contest. This industry design contest, now in its third year, seeks to
recognize the residential integration business that best utilizes Windows Media
Center in a custom home installation project. With the support of the newly formed
Media Center Integrator Alliance (MCIA), a group dedicated to driving awareness
and adoption of Windows Media Center technologies in the custom channel, the
Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest will represent the best of the
best in the ecosystem.

Last year, the winner of the Windows Media Center Ultimate
Install Contest was a home installation designed and implemented by Los Gatos,
Calif.-based integration firm cyberManor. The system was created for a family
in Sunnyvale, Calif., that desired a centralized, user-friendly entertainment
and automation system. The result was a complete integration solution with
Windows Media Center at the helm.

“Once again, custom installers have the chance to
demonstrate how a connected home can be designed using the Windows Media Center
platform,” said Kevin Collins, director of the Custom Installer Channel in the
Connected TV Business, Entertainment and Devices Division, at Microsoft.
“Microsoft and MCIA are excited to give custom installers the opportunity to
showcase their creativity, execution and personalized solutions for their
customers using all the products that make up the Windows Media Center
ecosystem.”

Contest Eligibility

The goal of Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest is
to identify the best implementation of the Windows Media Center platform as
designed and installed in a residential electronics system:

Read
Full Press Release

Media Center Gets More Web Marketing

Pete pointed to some excellent
new marketing videos
that were done for Microsoft and I noticed one thing
that just keeps coming back to me.  None
of them have anything to do with connected home entertainment!  What do they have to do with?  You guess it, watching TV on
your PC
.

Media Center definitely needs more marketing like this,
preferably I’d like to see this wrapped up with Zune, Xbox, and Windows 7 but
this is a good start (I’ve said that before though).  The Key Moment video was good, as was the Singing Antenna
but I’d like to see this taken further. 
The Sports with Windows video wasn’t bad, but between SportsCenters ads and
DIRECTVs March Madness/NFL Sunday ticket ads I feel like the film maker could
have taken a different direction that didn’t just merge and copy the two.

What do you think Microsoft needs to focus on in web advertising?

VidaBox vAutomation adds Powerful, Semi-Automatic LiteTouch Lighting Integration

Westbury,
NY – March 11th

– VidaBox is proud to announce support for LiteTouch®, an innovator in
residential lighting controls, on their vAutomation™ control and integration
platform.  All of the standard lighting controls can be integrated onto a
single VidaBox TouchClient™ or vPad™, providing the convenience of whole house
lighting control from any location.

“Not only did we develop a driver for LiteTouch®,” says Steven
Cheung, President of VidaBox LLC, “but we’ve created a semi-automatic,
integrated solution where virtually no programming is needed.  First,
every lighting station and button can be configured within the LiteWare
software. Next, by running a special program we’ve developed, this
configuration is then exported for use by the CQC driver, and presented on our
vAutomation templates.  These custom templates automatically generate
scene keypads with LED status feedback, along with scene buttons for each
LiteTouch® station.  This solution makes it extremely easy to set up
LiteTouch® on vAutomation™ touch interfaces without any programming.”

“We are excited to work with VidaBox in providing an excellent whole home
automation solution,” says Kevin Davidson, Corporate Training Manager of
LiteTouch, Inc.  “VidaBox provides a simple interface and a powerful
platform which allows LiteTouch to maintain our focus in providing the very
best and the most reliable lighting control solutions in the world.”

“By choosing LiteTouch® and VidaBox vAutomation™,” Cheung continues,
“dealers can offer a tightly integrated solution that allows lighting
control to be added easily, without any complex programming.  This
tremendously minimizes installation time without sacrificing quality. 
Combined with integrated support for media centers, audio servers, and other
smart home technologies, the vAutomation™ platform provides a truly all-in-one,
complete solution.”

vAutomation support for LiteTouch® is available now.  For more details and
information on this innovative automation platform and VidaBox’s comprehensive
line of media servers, extenders, and complete entertainment and control
solutions, please visit their company website at http://www.vidabox.com, or contact them at
516-730-7500.  For more details on LiteTouch and their lighting solutions,
please visit their company website at http://www.litetouch.com.

About VidaBox LLC
VidaBox LLC is a digital entertainment and controls solutions company focused
on manufacturing premium media centers, audio servers, and integrated home
control & automation solutions.  VidaBox is on a mission to create
user-friendly, stable high-performance Media Center systems that work right out
of the box and integrate seamlessly with multizone audio and smart home
technologies.  For more information, visit www.vidabox.com
or call 1-516-730-7500.

About LiteTouch Inc.
LiteTouch lighting control products offer real-world benefits including
convenience, security, time-savings, safety, energy conservation and design
aesthetics. “Experience Lighting Control”, an online tour detailing
many of these benefits is available at LiteTouch.com LiteTouch, a lighting
control industry leader for more than two decades, is headquartered in Salt
Lake City, Utah.

VidaBox Launches the Affordable RoomClient:SE Media Server

Westbury, NY – March 4th – VidaBox has launched the
new RoomClient:SE system, an entry-level, Vista-based media server. 
Starting at $2248, the RoomClient:SE stores movies, pictures, music, and more
for on-demand access via an on-screen, remote controlled interface.  Cover
art from movies and music titles are automatically downloaded along with every
archival.  Complete with 1080p upscaling and full Dolby Digital and DTS
support, it’s designed to deliver a stunning entertainment experience without
compromising quality.

“The RoomClient:SE is the perfect entry-level unit,” says Steven
Cheung, President of VidaBox LLC. “It has all the features and
capabilities of our larger systems, such as storage and playback of DVDs,
music, pictures, video, and TV – all in a compact-sized form factor. 
What’s even better is that integrators can expand upon the RoomClient:SE at a
later time by offering their clients various upgrades, such as more storage,
additional extenders for Blu-ray support, etc.  The RoomClient:SE strikes
a great balance between being feature-rich, easily expandable, and affordably
priced.”

Based on Vista Media Center, it includes enough storage for about 150+
unencrypted DVDs, 900+ hours of TV, or tons of music and pictures. 
Multizone AV distribution can be done by adding other VidaBox extenders, making
the system flexible and expandable.  Integration of IPTV and other
internet-based media on the RoomClient:SE interface provide access to a myriad
of content out of-the-box.  The addition of third-party applications to
provide and add more features make the RoomClient:SE an even more appealing
choice for dealers and consumers alike.

“Integrators and tech-savvy customers can even add support for Netflix’s
‘Watch Now’ feature on our systems,” Cheung continues. “Media
Center-based third-party apps like these allow clients to access and choose
from thousands of movies instantly.  With its vast multimedia storage
& playback capabilities and great price point, the RoomClient:SE is an
excellent choice for any AV project.”

The new RoomClient:SE is shipping and available now.  For more details and
information on the RoomClient:SE or other VidaBox media servers, extenders, and
complete entertainment and control solutions, please visit the company website
at http://www.vidabox.com, or call
516-730-7500.

About VidaBox LLC
VidaBox LLC is a digital entertainment and controls solutions company focused
on manufacturing premium media centers, audio servers, and integrated home
control & automation solutions.  VidaBox is on a mission to create
user-friendly, stable high-performance Media Center systems that work right out
of the box and integrate seamlessly with multizone audio and smart home
technologies.  For more information, visit www.vidabox.com
or call 1-516-730-7500.

Just another Microsoft MVPs site