The upcoming dashboard update for the Xbox 360 will introduce Xbox Bing video search, which will combine cross-platform video search with voice control.
Streaming video has exploded in the home theater.
Only a few years ago there was only Netflix, but now Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, and Vudu all offer top-notch streaming video services. The variety is great, but it forces streaming video fans to keep a mental catalog of where their favorite shows and movies are available. When I rereviewed the Apple TV, I almost rented "The Trip" for $5 before I realized it was available for free on Netflix.
Cross-platform video search is the obvious fix, but everyone (Samsung Smart Hub, Sony Internet video search, etc.) has failed to comb through multiple services. Even Google TV fails to even search Netflix results, after being on the market for almost a year. What's really needed is a service like Clicker or Fanhattan built into a streaming video box, allowing you to search all the streaming video sources you subscribe to and show pricing. (Disclosure: Clicker is a part of CBS Interactive, which also publishes CNET.)
Microsoft is the next to take on video search in the home theater with the upcoming fall Xbox Dashboard update, which includes Bing video search. It's not perfect, but it's promising to do what nobody else has been able to do yet: true cross-platform search between Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Xbox Live Marketplace. That's better than anyone else so far and Xbox is in a good position to add more searchable services, since HBO Go, Bravo, and Crackle are also headed to the console.
Even more interesting is that the Xbox is getting support from two major cable companies: Comcast and Verizon. The Xbox won't get the full offering of cable content right away, but it puts Xbox in a position to do what Google TV has been (unsuccessfully) trying to do: search through online and traditional cable content from a single search bar.
Cross-platform search would be enough to put the Xbox 360 ahead of its rivals, but Xbox Bing also takes on the other huge problem with home theater video search: text input. Typically you'll need to tediously hunt for letters using an onscreen keyboard, but with the Xbox Kinect's voice-recognition capability, you'll be able to skip that and say "Xbox Bing Parks and Recreation." (Yes, it would be better if you could say "Xbox search Park and Recreation," but that makes too much sense.) I'm not sure I'm ready to start talking to my TV, but it will almost certainly be faster than the alternative.
Even if Xbox Bing video search lives up to its potential, I doubt it will make streaming video fans run out to buy a $200 Xbox 360. It's still too expensive and the controller will turn off nongamers, even though you can control with it a standard remote. But if Xbox Bing works well, a streaming video box from Microsoft with Xbox Bing, Kinect-style voice control, and the same streaming video services could be a very compelling product.
The Xbox 360 fall dashboard update is rumored to be coming November 25, and I'm a lot more excited about that than Google TV 2.0.