updated 07:55 am EST, Tue November 7, 2006
HD Video on Xbox Live
Microsoft revealed late on Monday that it has made an unprecedented deal that will see the Xbox 360 as the first gaming console capable of purchasing and playing movies and TV shows. Beginning November 22nd -- the first anniversary of the Xbox 360 launch -- a new entertainment section in the Xbox Live Marketplace will carry both high-definition and standard editions of videos from major networks and movie studios, allowing any Xbox Live account owner to rent full-length movies or purchase videos directly from their consoles. Buyers of TV shows in particular will have the option of deleting and re-downloading shows when space. No pricing has yet been announced; Microsoft also did not mention any plans for an upgraded hard drive to replace the 20GB model currently bundled with the Xbox 360 Premium system.
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The service marks an additional number of firsts for the content itself, according to Microsoft. CBS is said to be offering its first true HDTV downloads, making available episodes of "CSI," "Jericho," and a remastered version of the original "Star Trek." Both standard and HD television shows will also be offered from several other networks, including first-time availability of condensed race highlights from NASCAR. High-profile movies such as "Mission: Impossible 3" and "Superman Returns" will also be available in regular and HD versions from Paramount and Warner Brothers.
Significantly, the deal indicates that Microsoft has had an unusual amount of success in convincing content providers to deliver Internet downloads of high-definition content, besting the standard-definition video sales offered through Amazon Unbox, Apple's iTunes Store, and other major video download services in North America. While these earlier services can often sell permanent copies of full-length movies in addition to TV programming, they are often restricted to at best DVD-quality resolution, limiting their appeal to owners of HDTV sets.