Microsoft Xbox Takes on Apple, Google With Smart TV

Microsoft's Xbox One.
Microsoft's Xbox One.

Microsoft unveiled its long-anticipated next generation console Xbox One on Tuesday, but it was its inclusion of live TV, rather than its gaming capabilities that set tongues wagging.

"I think what Microsoft is doing here is taking on not just Sony Playstation and Nintendo; it is taking on Apple and Google as well," Will Dunn from consumer electronics magazine Stuff told CNBC on Wednesday.

"People have been talking about smart TV for a long time, but this could be the first machine to really do it. Smart TV is something that a lot of companies are trying to get into and they have not been able to do it successfully yet."

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For years, the holy grail of the technology industry has been an all-in-one entertainment hub that includes TV and will sit proudly at the heart of the living room. The Xbox One will allow users to watch live TV from a cable or satellite set-top box through the console, although the service will only be available to the U.S. at first.

Steve Jobs famously envisaged TV as the "fourth leg" of his Apple empire, back in 2007, and speculation has been rife that an Apple product could be released this year. Google TV came into existence three years ago, but has failed to gain mass market appeal, despite several different hardware launches.

"All these people are just chasing the ghost of Steve Jobs, because he told them he was going to do TV next, and TV is dead so I don't know what they are doing," Bluford Putnam, a chief economist at CME Group, told CNBC on Wednesday.

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Alex Simmons, U.K. editor in chief at gaming magazine IGN magazine was more positive about the smart TV development.

"They need it to be the hub of the front room," Simmons told CNBC. "If they struck a partnership with someone like Sky, or a mainstream TV partner, where you did not need to have two boxes under your TV… I think that would suddenly become a viable option."

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Meanwhile, Microsoft has already announced a multi-year partnership with the NFL (the U.S.'s professional American football league), reported to be worth $400 million, and said it hopes to transform the way fans watch the game in their living rooms.

By's Matt Clinch; Follow him on Twitter @ mattclinch81