There were several social and media partnerships announced at Microsoft's pre-E3 press conference last week, including Facebook, Twitter and music streaming service Last.fm. Most cynics expected Microsoft to adopt their already available Zune Marketplace into Xbox Live; instead, they're adding a way to listen to music at no cost. Well, that's not totally true -- it's no cost if you're already an Xbox Live gold member.
I quizzed Xbox exec. and corporate VP John Schappert last week about providing Xbox Live Silver users, can purchase content but locked out of multiplayer, the ability to purchase specific services. If Xbox 360 is moving towards becoming a multimedia device, do users really need to pay $49.99 a year just to access, say, Last.fm? Schappert's answer was cagey.
"There's more details to come on Last.fm," he said, pausing, "but what we did announce today was it will be free for Xbox Live [Gold] members in multiple countries coming this fall."
Could more customization for Xbox Live users be coming in the future? Schappert answer seems to suggest there's no reason to rule it out.
I couldn't leave our interview without asking the elephant in the room, though: Hulu. Rumors of a native Hulu application for the iPhone have lingered, and with Hulu launching a full-featured desktop application on PC and Mac, it's clear the networks are interesting in expanding where, when and how people access Hulu content. So, Hulu on Xbox 360?
"I will say that we are always -- I think as evidenced by our partnerships that we've announced -- we're always looking at new opportunities," said Schappert. "We want to offer the best entertainment on Xbox Live in as many countries as we can. But it takes a while to get these deals done, it takes a while to form these relationships, form these partnerships and find a great experience for [all] of our partners. Suffice to say, I don't think the Facebook, Twitter, Skye partnerships are gonna be the last ones we're going to announce, but nothing new beyond that."
That seems to be a clever way of saying Microsoft's looking into it.