Microsoft is making big moves in the online video world. We know they're working on Xbox LIVE TV already which sounds like we will see the tech giant using their game console as a TV tuner for cable and other premium content. They already have Netflix, Hulu and the slowing dying Zune service on the console. Now, as they prepare to roll out Bing across the game console, they have picked up a video content discovery company.
I am in the beta program for the upcoming Xbox fall update for the dashboard and it's pretty cool actually. They've integrated voice for those with a Kinect and it works about 80% of the time. They also added in cloud storage for game saves, etc.
However, the big feature is when you Xbox Bing, then something like Bing Battlestar Galactica. It does in fact pull up a list of available Battlestar Galactica episodes that are available for streaming or purchase and download that much is true. However, I think it's limited to what has been plugged into the search index from the Zune service.
If they truly want to monetize all of this, they'll need a much broader scope for their search. Enter VideoSurf, their latest acquisition.
Microsoft Acquires Online Video Discovery Service VideoSurf
VideoSurf does content analytics to boost search and discovery of entertainment content (read: online video). Right in the press release for the acquisition they say this:
Over time, Microsoft will integrate this technology across its entertainment platform to augment the Xbox 360 ecosystem and evolve search and discovery of entertainment content on Xbox LIVE.
The real problem with the voice interface is that you can get so deep into a menu, the voice commands don't work and you can't back out unless you have a controller. Also, I said "Season One" three times and it always took me to Season Four. Hulu turned into The Who then cool blue. Until I said it /hoo loo/ with a pause between syllables, it could not pick it up. But that's mostly an interface issue and not a content discovery issue.
I did some testing with some content I know is on Hulu and the Bing voice search could not find it, even though my Hulu Plus account is tied to my Xbox LIVE account and installed. It even had problems simply finding Hulu and when it did, it mixed in mostly Zune content in the search results.
"VideoSurf's content analytics technology will enhance the search and discovery of entertainment content across our platform," said Alex Garden, director of Xbox LIVE for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. "This holiday we will launch voice search across our entertainment partners on Xbox LIVE. Over time, as we integrate VideoSurf's technology into our system, we are excited about the potential to have content tagged in real time to increase the speed and relevance of the search results."
I certainly hope it helps the voice search because right now it's like fighting with a 6 year old over the remote. In fact, almost no Hulu content was able to be found through the Bing voice search and that is most likely why they made this purchase. I think that they are only able to search content that is available on the Zune Service because it is theirs. What they are probably striving to do is something like the Google TV search where it can pull up a menu on whether you would like the content from YouTube, Amazon, etc. That is most likely what VideoSurf will do.
Now, perhaps they'll pick up Nuance next, makers of Dragon Naturally Speaking, because the voice search needs a lot of work.