Microsoft said this week it plans to allow its Xbox 360 online subscribers to download full-length motion pictures and TV shows, including HD content, to their game consoles for playback on their TV sets.
With that announcement, Microsoft suddenly takes on Apple's highly popular iTunes virtual store (although Apple's overall content is far more ambitious at this stage) and also perhaps steals some of the thunder from next week's anticipated release of the competing Sony PlayStation 3 game console with Blu-ray Disc drive.
Microsoft's new download service will enable a sub to download content directly to his Xbox 360 unit, where the content can be viewed on a large-screen TV set, for example, without the need to stream content from a PC.
Xbox Live, Microsoft's established Internet network for Xbox 360 subs, has until now featured more typical online standard fare such as movie trailers and brief YouTube-type video clips. By Nov. 22, it will begin offering a relatively modest 1,000 hours of content from TV venues including CBS and MTV, as well as titles from at least two major Hollywood movie studios.
Pricing has yet to be announced, but Microsoft indicates that HD fare will be priced slightly higher than SD. TV shows will be sold; movies will be rented.
Xbox 360 game consoles boast 20 GB hard drives. However, downloading an HD motion picture will take a few hours (while a half-hour SD TV show should take about three minutes). Currently, there will be no way to transfer or store HD and other downloaded content from the Xbox console to a PC or handheld video device.
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