Microsoft has switched up its game or at least the technology you'll be using to watch the big game thanks to their ESPN3 video application on the Xbox 360. It's an interesting decision I think. It seems that they've nixed anything related to their own streaming format (Smooth Streaming) and Silverlight and instead gone a bit more mainstream according to a Newteevee article.
I imagine that many content providers were unhappy if they weren't already using it. Aside from technical issues it's being said that it will make it cheaper for major providers like ESPN and MLB to get content onto the game console. This could also signal a flood of new content heading for the platform.
Speaking at Appnation this morning, MLB Senior VP of Multimedia and Distribution Joe Inzerillo said that Microsoft made some concessions in getting ESPN3′s live-streaming video on its Xbox Live service. Xbox had previously required content providers to use its Smooth Streaming technology for live video, which Inzerillo said added significant cost to video delivery on the game console. He said:
"When [ESPN was] looking to get to that platform, Microsoft would generally want you to use Smooth technology for the Xbox. The problem is that the economics for someone who has content, live content, that they're constantly putting out huge volumes of, like us or ESPN — the cost to deliver is a real huge issue.”
Essentially Microsoft would have been asking providers to make a separate stream to reach the Xbox 360 and that apparently didn't fly to well with them. So there is no additional cost to the content providers as they can use pre-existing versions that are used for other connected devices like the Playstation 3, Roku, Boxee and LG electronics.
Huh, that certainly didn't seem like a strong position from Microsoft to bargain from use our stuff or else you can't reach our people. I think the MLB and ESPN had some good leverage there. There won't be any directly available MLB coverage this year but it could be ready for Spring Training or Opening Day I imagine.
It seems to me like Microsoft didn't think too far in advance and is going to have to do a lot of work to get streaming video content onto the platform to a level where it's ready to compete with many of the other connected platforms that are currently available. I think the best thing Microsoft can do is to make a quick easy set of APIs or SDK that gives content providers a quick solution and robust resource to create apps for the Xbox Dashboard, something that not many companies can do presently as it requires some serious partnering with Microsoft and the Xbox division.
Microsoft moving to HTML5 compatibility for the Xbox 360 could be the jump start the platform needs and could allow for a quick growth spurt of content and apps for the platform which has been relatively slow to add things having only added its own Zune Network, Twitter and Facebook apps quite recently. Of course they rule with an iron fist there and anything that isn't a game, well, is almost non-existent. Is this a change in the mindset there? It would certainly be to their benefit.