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Microsoft to Offer HD Movie & TV Downloads Using Xbox Live Video

Posted on Tuesday, November 7th, 2006 and updated on Thursday, November 16th, 2006 11:25 AM

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So you thought that the big news this month in the gaming world was going to be the release of the new Sony Playstation 3, right? After all, when it comes to where game consoles and home theater meet, the release of a brand new gaming console sporting a Blu-ray drive is big news for gaming fans who also want to dive into watching movies in HD as well.

Well, Microsoft wasn't going to let Sony have the news headlines for the entire month, were they? We knew about the upcoming release of the HD DVD add-on drive for the Xbox 360 game console, but what we didn't see coming was the news that Microsoft is going to be offering movies and TV shows for download in HD goodness via their Xbox Live® video service.

Screenshot of Xbox LiveOn November 22, 2006, the first anniversary of the release of the Xbox 360, Xbox 360 owners will be able to download full-length TV shows to own and be able to rent movies from the Xbox Live network. They plan to have more than 1,000 hours of entertainment available by year's end.

From the screenshots posted on Engadget (see related links below), everything appeared to cost 320 Microsoft Points, or about $4.00 if the exchange rate I found was correct. An HD download of V for Vendetta was a 6.1GB download. Engadget is reporting that all HD content will be VC-1 formatted 720p widescreen video at 6.8Mbps with 5.1 channel surround sound. Movie rentals do expire, however, so you have a limited time to watch them before they would need to be rented again.

MoviesTV Shows
  • Mission: Impossible III
  • Nacho Libre
  • Jackass: The Movie
  • The Matrix
  • Superman Returns
  • Batman Forever
  • CSI
  • Jericho
  • Numb3rs
  • Remastered classic Star Trek episodes
  • various shows from Adult Swim, Comedy Central, MTV, MTV 2, Nick Toons, Nickelodeon, Spike TV, and more.

This makes the Xbox 360 the first platform to make HD downloads of movies to your living room a reality. We thought that Apple was going to be the first to market with their iTV/Dongle/Thing that was pre-announced back in September for release in January, but they aren't committing to offering HD, even though the product has an HDMI port. We'll take reality over pre-announcements any day, and Microsoft has been demonstrating this new service in action already.

Xbox 360

Xbox 360

HD DVD Add-on Drive

Xbox 360 HD DVD Add-on Drive

By combining this service with the upcoming HD DVD add-on drive that I mentioned earlier, Microsoft is delivering a pretty powerful package to consumers. At $400 for the console and $200 for the add-on HD DVD drive (which includes King Kong on HD DVD for a limited time, by the way), you're at the same price as the Playstation 3. With the production troubles experienced by the Playstation 3 and the pre-ordering frenzy that has happened before its release later this month, you probably won't be able to find one if you haven't plunked down your money already.

Additionally, we've heard no news from Sony in regards to TV and movie downloads, and the Xbox 360 benefits from having a year's head-start in regards to game selection and the maturity of the Xbox 360 Live network.

One final advantage to mention about the Xbox 360 is its ability to be a Media Center client (see Related Articles below for more info). That means that you if you have a Media Center PC somewhere in the house, you can use the Xbox 360 to access the videos and music stored on that PC. In addition to being a gaming console, the Xbox 360 is turning itself into a one-stop source for your entertainment.

Lest you think that I am a PS3-hater or an Xbox 360 fan-boy, the most recent game console I own is the original Atari 2600. While the graphics produced by the latest generation of game consoles have been attractive, it's difficult to justify spending so much on something that just plays games. Microsoft is working pretty hard at changing my opinion about such things, and they're providing an easy way for current Xbox owners to get more out of their systems. Kudos to Microsoft for delivering what others are only promising!

Click the Read link below to read the Microsoft Press Release.

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