Xbox 3, Xbox 720, NextBox… whatever you call it, lots of rumors are being floated about Microsoft's next home console. Some say it'll output Avatar-level visuals while others say it'll lean heavily on cloud architecture. But the latest hint as to Microsoft's gaming future point to their ever-increasing ambition to fuse TV, film and gaming content.
On December 27th, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office granted a patent to Microsoft for a device that would serve as both a game console and a digital video recorder. Patent # 8,083,593 gets described thusly:
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.
Rumors of such a set-top box go back as far as 2007, when the patent was originally applied for, and former CEO Bill Gates was expected to announce something with many of these features at that year's CES. The proposed device would be able to record video content while a user's playing a game and would also be able to record even if the game-playing portion is powered off. It sounds an awful lot like sleep-mode functionality of the current DVRs on the market today but with a console game layer on top of it all.
Right now, the newest dashboard update makes the Xbox 360 into a streaming media hub, with content coming in from all sorts of partner apps. If the technology and aspirations in this patent make it to market, the focus in Microsoft's gaming hardware will shift from streaming to recording and storage. That might rankle content providers, who'll probably only get twitchier about letting their programming live on various devices.
Of course, the ideas in this patent may take years to show up in the real world. And the usual caveat about patents applies, too, which is that we may never see it at all. But, given Microsoft's continued drive to make the Xbox a dominating force in the living room, I think we're going to see some of these features whenever Microsoft reveals its next-generation hardware.
Recording media on gaming consoles [U.S. Patent & Trademark Office]