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Xbox 360 will soon stream HBO, SyFy, other TV networks

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(Read caption) Your Xbox 360 could soon serve as your cable box. Here, an Xbox 360 controller.

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The Xbox 360: not just for games anymore. Today, Microsoft announced that beginning later this year, users with a Web-connected Xbox console – and an Xbox Live Gold account – will be able to stream television shows from a range of providers, including HBO Go, Verizon FiOS, Bravo, and SyFy. An exact release date has not yet been announced, although smart money is on a November or December launch.

"Today’s announcement is a major step toward realizing our vision to bring you all the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, made easy," Microsoft exec Don Mattrick 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."

As Ben Kuchera of Ars Technica points out, the move is a canny one for Microsoft.

"Instead of digging across all the media outlets you have access to looking for a single piece of content, the console itself can do that for you, effectively piling all the different movies and television programs into one big pool that's easily searched," Kuchera writes. "While there are bound to be more details and limitations announced before all this content is added to the system... Microsoft is making serious moves in the world of entertainment."

Microsoft is also upping the pressure on video-streaming sites such as Netflix, which has weathered some serious turmoil this year. In early September, Netflix raised its rates, angering plenty of customers; later, CEO Reed Hastings announced he would split the Netflix business into two separate arms – a DVD rental platform called Qwikster, and a streaming video service that will retain the name Netflix.

Subscribers are reportedly flaking away. Which leaves the door wide open for a competitor. Paging Microsoft.

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