Microsoft’s kick-off presser at E3 in LA tops the news this moring. The big takeaway was the rollout of Project Natal for the Xbox 360, which uses a 3D video camera to let people control on-screen game action by moving their bodies, rather than with a Wii-like wand or thumb-busting hand-held controller (see reports here, here and here, and full press release here). In a show of marketing force, Microsoft brought out Steven Spielberg to demonstrate the new controller, followed by a joint appearance by Paul, Ringo, Yoko and George Harrison’s widow to demonstrate the Beatles Rock Band game.
For a non-gamer like Media Wonk, though, the more interesting news was the amped-up Xbox LIVE. Online network will drop downloading in favor of instant streaming of movies and bump the quality up to 1080p video and 5.1 channel audio. It also integrates Netflix’s streaming service, Web radio serve Last.fm and live and on-demand TV from BSkyB (see here and here).
Microsoft is also moving heavily into social networking around the Xbox. The new Xbox LIVE integrates Facebook and Twitter updating through the Xbox and adds its own social networking wrinkle called Xbox LIVE Party, which lets users chat with distant frieds in real time while watching a movie.
This being Microsoft, you know there had to be at least one clunker in the announcement and Redmond didn’t disappoint. Microsoft’s own movie and TV service, heretofore known and well-regarded as the Xbox Live Network, will be rebranded Zune Video, the better to associate it with a failed music format and remind everyone that it’s no Apple.
Elsewhere today, the Telegraph in the UK reports that Google and the BBC are in talks to take BBC’s iPlayer service global, supported in some unspecified manner by YouTube. The Google video portal could certainly use the professional content.
Meanwhile, AP’s news editor Ted Bridis tells Ars Technica that the wire service’s anti-misappropriation system is coming soon, designed to stop the “wholesale theft” of AP’s content online.
“There are commercial websites, not even bloggers, necessarily,” Bridis added, “that take some of our best AP stories, and rewrite them with a word or two here, and say ‘the Associated Press has reported, the AP said, the AP said.’ That’s not fair. We pay our reporters. We set up the bureaus that are very expensive to run, and, you know, if they want to report what the AP is reporting they either need to buy the service or they need to staff their own bureaus.”
That’s pretty much what this whole item does.