Microsoft wants to murder your cable box. Streaming video was the first step. Digital video recording is step number two.
On December 27, the United States Patent And Trademark Office issued patent #8,083,593 to Microsoft for a digital video recorder application that stores streamed video content for later viewing. No big deal, right? This kind of thing can be found in most cable boxes, and TiVO perfected the idea almost a decade ago. The big difference here though is that Microsoft's new patent applies specifically to home gaming consoles.
Have a look at the patent's description:
An integrated gaming and media experience is disclosed, including recording of content on a gaming console. A digital video recorder (DVR) application running alongside a television client component allows users to record media content on the gaming console. The DVR application also integrates itself with the console menu. Once integrated, users can record media content while playing games. Alternatively, users can record content when the gaming console is turned off. The recorded content can include television programming, gaming experience (whether local or online), music, DVDs, and so on. When in the recording state, users can also switch between various other media modes, whether gaming, television, and so on.
That last bit is the important part; Microsoft wants to allow users to record video (whether it be streaming films or television) while still being able to use the machine to play videogames. Cool, right? Not if you're in the business of providing people with cable television. For years those providers raged against the concept of the DVR, as it allowed viewers to skip those crucial cash-generating commercials, though they eventually got over it by offering their own DVR machines. Microsoft, in turn, wants to one-up that scheme by offering both DVR functionality and streaming video content in a single machine that can also play Halo. I wonder how Comcast is going to feel about that.
Of course, this technology has been a long while in the making -- the original patent application dates from 2007 -- and will likely not appear any time soon. Thus the common assumption is that it won't be implemented until the next iteration of the Xbox.
And, as per usual, we have no real idea when that might be. Still, I suddenly find myself anticipating the thing far more than I was an hour ago, if only to see what kind of chaotic tantrum the traditional TV providers are going to kick up in response to Microsoft gradually absorbing their entire business model like the grotesque lovechild of Max Headroom and the Blob.