Microsoft Is Finally Taking Aim At The Cable Box

Microsoft Is Finally Taking Aim At The Cable Box

Posted 15 hours ago by John Biggs

Game consoles are in an enviable position: right under millions of televisions. The popular line is that the big three – NintendoMicrosoft, and Sony – are dinosaurs choking on the smoke of a red hot mobile gaming meteor. That’s not true. Nintendo has already sold 3.91 million units as of September 2013 and the Xbox 360 sold 79 million. That’s a lot of electronics under a lot of TVs.Each of these devices has attempted to supplant a single rival, the cable box, with lackluster results. The Wii U allows for a sort of watered-down TV control using the Wiimote but the Xbox One is one of the first devices to offer HDMI pass through and a built-in TV guide for any provider. And, if I were a cable provider, I’d be very afraid. I sat down with Microsoft yesterday to see the new system and came away impressed.

At launch Xbox’s TV functionality is very limited. The Kinect works as an IR blaster and controls almost any set top box using remote commands. You can pause and rewind live shows but you can’t record them or really control your DVR directly from the Xbox (they say that functionality is coming soon which may point to some trouble with partners). To do the things most of us do with cable boxes – play back recorded TV – you’re out of luck with the One… right now.

But what the One does best is offer favorite channels and programs. By offering an embedded TV guide, the One supplants the Comcasts and Dishes of the world and creates a layer over live TV. You can select your favorite channels and just scroll through those, you can go to certain channels with voice commands, and you can pin movies and shows to your dashboard for easy access. Not everything works perfectly yet, but the direction is clear: the One is a mediator between the cable box and your desires and, given enough access, it could supplant the “live” channel entirely.

The thing that struck me during our demo is how easy it would be for the One to replace, say, the HBO cable channel with HBO Go. I could also see a day when cable channels could go all IP and embed themselves right into the program guide on an a la carte basis. Microsoft already has channel apps – apps that supply certain entertainment like NFL games. What would happen when all of your channel apps replace actual cable channels? It can and it will happen.

Again it is very premature to say that the Xbox One is replacing the cable box. The software is still wonky and the use case, at least for folks with home theater gear and a smart remote, is limited. However if space is at a premium I could definitely see passing my cable box through the Xbox and getting everything done that way. I could also see a day when the arguably powerful guts of the Xbox pushes the cable box out entirely and simply slurps up Internet video. While that day won’t be soon, if I were a cable company exec I’d be watching my back. After all, Blockbuster was once a media giant as well and look where that got them.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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