I’m not much of a gamer, but I recently bought an Xbox360. It seemed like a good investment: it will play my old games for the original Xbox, it will network to my Windows desktop to play my movies and music, I enjoy playing Skyrim on it, and the Xbox360 has additional, non-game applications on it (i.e. Netflix)! Let’s talk about those apps for a moment.
To be fair, the Xbox360 does’t really have very many apps on it (maybe two dozen?), and some of the built-in apps barely work. I think there may be more apps for the Kindle Touch than there are for the Xbox360, and certainly anybody with a smartphone of any kind wouldn’t be impressed with the apps selection on Xbox live. If you’re like me, and you aren’t much of a gamer, the Xbox360 seems like it missed a ton of opportunities to be even more fun, beyond the scope of the games it was originally designed for. Just for example, let’s talk about the music apps, because it sure is nice to be able to use the TV to play a lot of music.
They say that music and video in new Windows 8 will have better Xbox integration, and I sure hope it works better than the current setup. Currently, I’m able to stream music from my computer to my Xbox, but the Media Center app for the xbox crashes and lags way too often. Luckily there’s also the standard music player app on the xbox360 (there are two of those, too?!) and it will play my music, but without any extra features like album art. It’s clearly designed for listening to music while playing a game, which is fine, but it could be finer. My old xbox was finer, but only because I hacked it with the Xbox Media Center operating system. (Sometimes I wonder, if the old XBMC software was open source, then why the hell didn’t Microsoft use it?) Things like the Roku and the Apple TV offer a lot smoother experience with video and audio, but of course they lack the games. Can’t one device do both things?
When I investigate the other options that there are for music apps, I see that there’s at least one internet-enabled radio app. No, it isn’t Spotify. It’s older than that. No, it’s not Pandora. It’s last.fm. That’s great, because I’ve been using last.fm for years, but those other two are conspicuously absent. What gives?
I can think of some apps that would be great to have on my TV, via the Xbox, such as Flickr or Instagram, YouTube.. and who knows how many others there could be, if only it were more encouraged for people to build them. Somehow, I get the impression that it isn’t so easy, fun or encouraged to build these apps, which is probably why they don’t exist. The focus is obviously on the games, where of course there ought to be focus, but I wonder: is that all there is?