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Microsoft aims to bring telly to the XBox

Microsoft is teaming up with a bunch of TV and communications services to bring TV programmes to its XBox Live service.

The Windows maker said it has signed up nearly 40 partners for the service, inlcluding the likes ofXbox 360 is the first console to offer access to the world’s greatest TV properties, including BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Lovefilm in the U.K.; Antena 3, RTVE and Telefónica in Spain; Televisa in Mexico; and Bravo, Comcast’s Xfinity On Demand service, Crackle, EPIX, Syfy, TMZ, UFC, Verizon FiOS and HBO GO in the United States.. The firm expects to launch the service in 20 countries before the end of the year.

The announcement is likleyto putthe wind up the likes of Apple and Google who have been trying to get their idea of Internet-connected tellies to catch on. Microsoft has the distinct advantage of already having its hardware in millions of homes. Its Xbox Live service numbers more than 35 million members. most of wholm actually pay for it.

Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft said in a statement: “Combining the world’s leading TV and entertainment providers with the power of Kinect for Xbox 360 and the intelligence of Bing voice search will make TV and entertainment more personal, social and effortless.”

Microsoft also plans an application for its Windows Phone mobile software that will turn phones into an enhanced remote control for the Xbox service. Users will be able to search for programs and then set them to play on the Xbox, as well as view additional information about the program, Honey said.

The company intends to offer apps that work with the Xbox TV service for Apple’s iOS software as well, Pachter said, citing a Microsoft analyst briefing yesterday. Honey declined to comment on those plans, except to say that Microsoft has been expanding some products to both iOS and Google’s Android.

Some programming will require customers to be subscribers to Microsoft’s Xbox Live pay service. Other content, such as the BBC and other public television, will work with the free version of Xbox Live, Honey said.

Customers won’t have to know which channel or provider offers the show or movie they want. Instead they can say or type the name of the program and Xbox’s Bing search service will return all options for viewing it, including ones the customer doesn’t currently subscribe to, Honey said.

TV service efforts by companies such as Apple and Google have gotten little traction with customers. Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has said that his company’s Apple TV product remains “a hobby business.” In April, Logitech International SA cut the price of its Google TV device, citing slow initial sales.

Microsoft has some advantages over those companies, Pachter said. It already has a big presence in customers’ living rooms: A total of 55 million Xbox 360 machines have been sold worldwide. The company also can draw on its search engine, its Kinect motion-and-voice sensor technology and the new content agreements.

“Each of those guys has a strength, but nobody has hardware already in the living room, with voice command that works,’” he said. “Microsoft has a big advantage.”