Xbox, Netflix partnership a huge salvo in HD download wars

Yesterday's stunning announcement that Netflix will offer downloads to Microsoft Xbox customers was huge.  It means that the heretofore-thought-of-as-a-gaming-system Xbox 360 might actually become that ubiquitous set-top box that Microsoft envisioned after all.

And it opens up a new world of possibilities for Microsoft -- a few of which maybe not even they have thought of yet.

As you can see from my photo, I am middle-aged.  I still have my Intellivision, my game platform of choice back in the day.  I also have about fifty games for it.  I never play it anymore, mainly because I don't have the time.  But the fond memories  of those 4-bit games is too strong to allow me to go "Clean House" and garage sale them away.

But I can be brought back into the fold quickly.  My son has an Xbox 360, and I have been known to grab a controller and duke it out with him on Madden, NCAA Football 200x or Fight Night.  And my wife for Christmas bought the entire family the game Rock Band, which was expecially sweet since I had a number of garage bands back when I had hair.  I am sure the neighbors went crazy with those December and January jam sessions.

Once my son returned to college, however, the gaming stopped.  And I could not justify buying a 360 just to try and play Aerosmith when I wanted to.

At least until now. 

With this announcement, Netflix opens the door to previously-computer-bound movie watching.  And with the Xbox 360's wireless capability, users do not have to worry about running Ethernet cables all over their home theatre.  If they can get a wireless signal at their equipment, they are golden.  Plus, with Xbox 360's new-found HDMI port on certain units, they are ready for next-gen HD entertainment downloads, allegedly coming soon from Netflix.  And maybe others.

Netflix's endorsement of Xbox 360 will open many opportunities for a new, wider market for the console.  People who never really considered the Xbox can now justify it for themselves, based solely on the Netflix deal.  I include myself in that category.  But it also opens some interesting value-adds, such as those offered by Nintendo for its Wii.  One look at the Wii's use in senior centers and retirement homes as a way to instill fun and exercise should not be lessons lost on Microsoft.  Once the gaming device is in a home, prominently featured as a digital movie appliance, I am confident other uses will emerge.  In the aggregate, that means that Grandpa may be fighting Junior for that wireless controller in due time.

Now if I can convince my wife.....  Rock Band 2 comes out this Fall.

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