A funny thing happened to me when I made a comparison chart this week listing what you can watch on Google's new Chromecast versus Apple TV and Roku. A few people asked why I didn't list the Xbox. The answer is that the Xbox is a different class of device, to me. And if I'm not thinking of it alongside streaming media devices, consumers might not, as well. That's an opportunity for Microsoft.
I love my Xbox for gaming. But I've also streamed Internet-based video content through my Xbox, just as I have through my Apple TV and my Roku. Usually, it's HBO Go content, because of whatever is the ridiculous licensing issue that prevents DirecTV subscribers from enabling HBO Go on the Roku.
There's no question that the Xbox is a great streaming media device. Indeed, here's how it compares to the other three devices, in terms of support for what I consider to be the essential app-based "channels" that an Internet-to-TV device should include:
My article for Marketing Land, What You Can Watch On Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku & Xbox, explains more about the chart, why I consider these channels (Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go) important and more on how they work, so I won't repeat that here.
Natively, without having to open up a laptop or play around with settings, Xbox supports even more major options than the others. So what's the problem? Why wouldn't everyone buy an Xbox to stream video material?
The problem is that the Xbox is also a streaming media device, a capability added on to what I'd argue remains its main function, being a gaming console. That leads to two issues for consumers who may consider it versus one of the other devices:
- It's overlooked or not thought of alongside the others
- It's at least twice the price or more than the others
I think if you're a consumer not already considering Roku or Apple TV, and the now sold-out Chromecast has got you reassessing the space, you might take a closer look at the other two. But would you contemplate an Xbox? It's probably not showing up in comparison reviews for the same reason it wasn't in my article, because it's really a different class of device. It does more; the primary purpose still seems game-oriented, and it sure costs more.
That's where Microsoft's opportunity lies. Why not make an "Xbox TV" streaming media device, of a similar nature to the Roku, Apple TV or Chromecast? Lose the gaming functionality, focus on the video (and perhaps music), and Microsoft might have a way into people's living rooms who might otherwise dismiss the Xbox.
Why can't I have that in a much smaller box, at a much smaller price -- and which doesn't take longer to load than my Apple TV or Roku, or make as much noise operating? That might be a hit for Microsoft in the way the Chromecast may be turning into for Google.
When I was discussing on Twitter about my initial omission of the Xbox in my comparison, that's where I thought of the "Xbox Live" idea, that it seemed such an obvious move that Microsoft should make. Then Tom Warren pointed out to me his article in The Verge, on rumors that an Xbox TV-type of device is coming.
Warren says Microsoft's plans have put this type of device back until next year. Xbox TV may be coming, and if so, perhaps Microsoft should accelerate its development.