We've heard the rumors for quite a while now: Microsoft is making a push to become THE entertainment hub in your living room with the next Xbox. But while the official reveal may be a few weeks away, The Verge seems to have the first bit of details about how Microsoft may just achieve living room dominance. The Xbox 720 (as Microsoft's next-gen console is popularly known as) will be capable taking over your TV and set-top box, similar to Google TV.
According to the report, your cable box signal will be passed through to the Xbox via HDMI, allowing the console to overlay its own user interface and features over the existing channel or set-top box. Microsoft is reportedly working with content partners to provide more streamlined integration with the service.
If the source is correct, this could explain the Xbox 720's always-on requirement. Rumors about the next Xbox requiring you to be connected to the internet have picked up over the past few weeks, with many believing it to be related to some form of gaming DRM — perhaps to block pre-owned games from being played. It now appears the online connection will be used for entertainment services, "allowing them to be always-on for streaming and access to TV signals," according to The Verge.
However, it's important to note that this doesn't necessarily mean the always-on requirement won't apply to games — it just seems less likely now. Or, it at least seems like there's another purpose aside from DRM. If you recall, a screenshot of the next Xbox (Durango) hardware overview revealed its always-on requirement will be used for games; however, its purpose seemed more focused on keeping your games up-to-date at all times as to avoid a delay in gameplay.
Furthermore, it's expected that the next Xbox will feature Kinect integration that will also play a pivotal role in the company's focus on TV and entertainment. The Kinect will supposedly be able to detect eye movement, pausing the content when the viewer turns their head away from a TV. The Kinect will also be used as part of the console's UI and features.
Specifics, like content partners and exact functionality aside, the major concern now seems to be the always-on requirement. With utility bills already rising, some are concerned about the cost of keeping an Xbox on all of the time. Although current-gen consoles only have one power mode, it's assumed that the next Xbox will allow for a "low power" mode as to not waste electricity when connected to your cable.
There are still plenty of questions surrounding this type of technology, but until Microsoft actually reveals the console, they'll remain a mystery.