Microsoft is intensifying its efforts to appeal to both core gamers and non-gamers, announcing two new titles in its blockbuster "Halo" franchise Monday and plans to integrate live television into the console.
Starting this fall, Xbox 360 owners will be able to watch live TV programming though a variety of partners, which have yet to be announced. In addition, the company has unveiled a new service that combines its Bing search service with video delivery providers.
The new search service, at its heart, is similar to what Google has promoted as one of the chief features of Google TV — allowing owners to find the programming, as well as games, they want when they want it.
"This is the year that live television comes to Xbox 360, as we partner with leading television providers, both here in the U.S. and around the world," said Marc Whitten, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Xbox Live division. "This is our vision of the future of television."
Microsoft says 40 percent of all Xbox activity is spent on activities other than games. The average console is used 30 hours per week for streamed video and audio programming — and the number is growing fast.
Through the search service, users will be able to use voice commands to search for programming of interest to them using Microsoft's Bing search engine. The service will then search through the archives of video providers, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and more for available video.
Microsoft has been a leader in the non-gaming functionality console space. The company was the first to offer the Netflix streaming service on its console and last year announced a partnership with ESPN to stream classic and live sports programming on the console.
Of course, the Xbox 360 is still primarily a video-game console — and Microsoft was actively reminding people of that at its event.
The company announced two new "Halo" games: One is a remastered version of the original title, with updated graphics that will hit shelves in November (the 10th anniversary of the series' launch). The second is the long-awaited "Halo 4," which will bring back the Master Chief, the series hero. "Halo 4" will hit store shelves in late 2012.
Microsoft also introduced new titles for its popular Kinect motion controller, expanding the device to a number of titles for core gamers, including Electronic Arts' "Mass Effect 3" and Ubisoft's "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier".
"This year, Xbox will change living room entertainment forever," said Don Mattrick, president of interactive entertainment for Microsoft.