Yesterday on stage at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), my Xbox colleagues and I painted our vision for the next decade in home entertainment, a decade that will be transformative unlike any our industry has seen. But as you look ahead to the future of the living room, you have to take stock of the industry milestones that got us here, going back more than 70 years.
Put yourself into the living room in 1938. You're listening to one of the very first cloud-based entertainment experiences - Orson Welles' classic adaptation of H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds." You gather in front of the radio with family and friends, listening together with rapt attention to a story well told. But of course it's not just your family and your living room. The entire nation is listening as one community, sharing one social experience around this masterful narrative. This was a watershed moment for entertainment.
For the last 70 years we've focused on taking this idea and making it deeper and richer, breaking down the fourth wall to truly invite the audience into the experience. And to a great degree technology has answered that challenge, bringing us higher fidelity and more choice. A thousand channels on your satellite dish and high definition video that brings amazing sports broadcasts to life, making you feel like you're right on the field. We have moved beyond the challenge of getting great content into the home, and we as consumers have certainly moved beyond the "there's nothing on" complaint.
So what's next?
There's also a fifth wall, separating living room from living room, which prevents us from interacting with each other and truly sharing our entertainment experiences. The question is how do we engage with that content together? And one thing we've seen at Xbox for a long time is how bringing everyone together, whether on the same couch or on different continents, adds to the experience in a unique way. It's about changing audiences into communities.
Everyone with a 13-year-old at home sees this gap bridged every day. She's watching her favorite show on the television but also interacting with that content and her friends by sending text messages and posting on Facebook. People have more ways to connect to each other than ever before, but all of this interaction is taking place away from the TV.
The future is building community experiences and two-way interaction right into the content, and the still nascent rise of the Internet in the living room is allowing us to do just that. Tens of millions of video game consoles, set-top boxes and Web TVs in this country alone have brought with them a pathway to sharing that content with friends and family around the globe. At Xbox we took a step down that path last November with a series of new social features on Xbox LIVE. Now I can update my Facebook status from my couch, while my friends in the UK watch and discuss live football matches together through BSkyB on Xbox. And just yesterday we announced that we're bringing that same principle of community and social interaction to sports entertainment in the U.S. through a groundbreaking collaboration with ESPN, connecting the Xbox LIVE community with fellow sports fans from coast to coast. 25 million people around the world connected through their entertainment.
But just like on the Web, we now risk oversaturation in the living room, millions of people sharing billions of pieces of content, dozens of remotes and hundreds of online friends. This makes discoverability the final piece of the puzzle. How do I find what I want and whom I want? When it comes to content discovery and navigation, it's like we're still in a black and white world before the invention of Technicolor. It's time to shift the focus from the Ethernet port in the back or the remote on the table, to the human sitting on the couch.
At E3 we are showing how Kinect, formerly known as "Project Natal," will transform games and entertainment. Now your whole body is the controller, or the voices of your family members. Beginning this November, gone will be the days of multiple remote controls. You will simply raise your hand, or your voice to control your entertainment. Movies and music, sports, even video chat, all literally at your fingertips.
But I believe we've only scratched the surface of what Kinect can do. Imagine your TV automatically changing to your favorite television program when you walk in the room, or recommending new shows for you and your friends on the couch. Today we shout at the screen during Jeopardy, but the screen doesn't respond back. Imagine if it recognized your answers, instantly making you a part of the fun. What if canned laugh tracks embedded into television programming become real-time audience reaction? What if you could add your voice to the millions of others who were cheering on your favorite team?
We now find ourselves at a tipping point, where a confluence of technologies in the living room will redefine the way people access and share content. The living room has always been a magical place, home to both our most intimate family moments and grand entertainment.
Now we're on the cusp of capturing that magic in new and exciting ways, leveraging advanced technology to deliver a simple, powerful end: the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, wherever you are.
Marc Whitten is the corporate vice president of Xbox LIVE for the Microsoft Corporation
Follow Marc Whitten on Twitter: www.twitter.com/notwen