xbox 360 movie downloads

xbox360_redux.jpgMicrosoft, that friendly giant that everyone appreciates, is at it again. With their new Zune multimedia player coming out in a bit over a week, they’ve now announced that Xbox 360 users will be able to download high-definition movies and TV shows over Xbox Live. The movies are all rentals – they can be downloaded in high-def (720p) or standard definition, and must be watched within two weeks of the download. Once the movie has started playing, it can be watched an unlimited number of times for 24 hours. After that, it remains on the hard drive for a specified amount of time (unless deleted) but the user must pay to watch it again. TV shows are for purchase only. Once a show is bought, it can reside on the 360’s hard drive forever, or it can be deleted to make room for more shows and then downloaded again an infinite amount of times.

I think this is a great move by Microsoft. The ease of the Xbox Live marketplace, coupled with the 360’s overall coolness, will make this ability very useful. So what are my concerns? Well, the hard drive is only 20 GB – we definitely need more space, and I’ve got a 500 GB drive on my network which would be great to use. Unfortunately, movies must reside on the downloader’s 360 (TV shows can be transferred to another user’s 360). As of right now, there’s no Zune hookup, which is a real shame. If they truly want the Zune to be successful, they need to integrate it into the 360 as thoroughly as possible. And they need a lot of content available. I want a ton of movie choices, because Nacho Libre isn’t cutting it.

What I do like is the quality of the movies. 720p with 5.1 sound is better than a DVD, and that’s good enough for me. In addition, not only has Microsoft set aside a new service to make the movie downloads faster than the current game demo downloads, but movie downloads don’t even have to complete before the movie can be started. The pricing seems reasonable as well. Movie rentals are $4 for standard definition and about $6 for high-def. TV shows are $3 per show (and remember, that’s a permanent purchase). Now, just integrate this into the Zune and let me use my 500 GB hard drive (yeah right) and I’ll be completely satisfied. Let’s see the PS3 do that.

19 thoughts on “xbox 360 movie downloads

  1. Cripes.

    I don’t know why people say such bad things about Microsoft, I think that their results well justify their ventures, and even prices. But the capability to download movies/tv at higher than dvd quality is just a huge jump ahead of everything else.

    I haven’t read much about the PS3. What is their big push as to why its going to be so good?

  2. The PS3 has slightly better specs, but the hardware is actually pretty sweet. It has HDMI out (for high-def TVs), a bevy of multimedia card slots (which is surprising, since Sony used to just support their Memory Stick), Bluetooth, WiFi, and a much larger hard disk (60 GB). It can support up to seven controllers, and has the built-in Blu-Ray drive.

    Of course, it’s more expensive than the Xbox 360 and the online service isn’t nearly as good (even without the newly announced movies and TV of Xbox Live). And then there are the games, which are going to suck for a bit. Plus the fact that Blu-Ray is going to fail just like the UMD did (hopefully).

    Finally, we can’t forget that as sprawling as Microsoft is, they aren’t nearly as arrogant as the SOB Sony execs, who expect you to buy their new PS on the name alone. They even put Steve Jobs to shame.

  3. I don’t think any of the newer movie disc technology is going to catch on for a while. When i worked at bestbuy, i couldn’t tell that much of a difference between dvd/hddvd/blu-ray, unless the tv was super large and super expensive. It’s definitely not worth the 500$ more for the player, and more than twice as much for each disc.

  4. I know all about the HD-DVD drive, and it’s coming out sooner than that – it’s already available for preorder. But since it lacks HDCP (a security layer that may be required by HD-DVD discs in the future), it may not be useful once HD-DVD’s start really taking off.

    That was a good comparison between the 360 and the PS3 – I really thought the PS3 was supposed to be more powerful. That’s the last time I listen to those Sony fanboys.

    HD-DVD’s aren’t too expensive. Most go for between $20-$30, just like DVD’s did when they came out. But I agree that they won’t be catching on for a while. If not for these consoles adopting them, I don’t see many people caring about their existence at all. DVD’s look find to most people.

  5. i jusr reread that comparison. it was published by microsoft. so im not taking it too seriously. but i still think that there really wont be a visable difference between the 2

  6. I just got this month’s PC Magazine; the big cover story was the comparison between the XBox, PS3, and Wii. It’s kinda odd, because I had imagined that gaming consoles would have more memory and larger capacity video cards. O wellz.

  7. Man when the 360 came out, it had a much better video card than you could buy for $500 for a PC. It’s custom-designed and has features that are just now becoming commonplace. There’s nothing disappointing about the graphics in either the PS3 or the 360 – now the Wii, on the other hand…

    The systems get away with less memory than a computer because you don’t have all this superfluous crap running in the background, and the games are specifically written to fully-utilize the specific hardware so they’re much more efficient than PC programs (which must be designed with many different configurations in mind).

    The Wii isn’t even close (in terms of power) to the other two consoles. But it’s a totally different kind of system, and not a fair comparison. The Wii could prove to be more fun than either the 360 or the PS – especially since it’s getting Harvest Moon.

  8. PC Magazine Links:


    These are just the links to the specs page for the xbox and ps3, there is a very in depth article that this information is embedded in. The whole article talks about their relative strong points and weak points, instead of bogging everyone down in technical jargon and math. I still think the XBox360 >>>>>>> PS3. Especially since the XBox3 came out before PS3, and cost less even when it initially came out.

    I didn’t know until after I read this article that the 360 had 3 dual core processors, which is pretty insane. My bet is that the next-gen video game systems won’t be as revolutionary as far as processing power, but more the way the gaming media is stored. There will probably be a shift away from discs (because read time from a ROM drive is hundreds of times longer than a fetch from a hard drive, and thousands of times longer than a fetch from memory or cache.) It really astonishes me that they didn’t put much cache on the processors in the PS3; As a general rule of thumb when programming hardware: If you want to do something fast, you put it in cache.

    I really don’t know what those crazy japs were thinking by putting this machine out with very little virtual storage, and such huge physical storage. My only guess is that they plan on doing a lot of their processing on data streamed over a network connection (such as entire games that you play being held on a server, and the console requests game information just-in-time.)

    From a programmer’s perspective: the ps3 breaks the typical problem solving methods typically used in the areas of performance and threading. Making a program run on several processors without data corruption/timing issues is hard enough, and to date, there is no compiler that succeeds in doing so very well. To design any process to run efficiently on more than 2 cores is a chore, and everything has to be done by hand (which includes much planning and very tedious coding [at a very low level] to switch attention from one processor to another.)

    Maybe it will catch on. Probably not until people get better at threading applications, and learn efficient cluster algorithms. Only time can tell.

  9. Just a clarification – the 360 has one processor with three parallel cores, each supporting two threads. So functionally, it’s equivalent to three dual-core processors, but it’s really just one processor. And we’re just now getting quad-core in desktops.

    It’s interesting you should mention that about the storage. The next Playstation is rumored to not contain an optical drive, and media is supposedly going to be downloaded onto a hard disk (or hell, maybe we’ll have flash solid-state storage by then, since it probably won’t come out until about 2012).

    The way the cell processor behaves in the PS3 is different from a traditional processor in regards to cache. Apparently each separate SPE (which behaves like a separate processor, and there are eight of these) has a 256 kb “local store” instead of a cache. You can read about it here.

  10. That is rather interesting. I will have to read it more in depth later (its really late right now, and i need to go to bed), but a few of the things that I read in that specification say exactly the opposite of what the PC Magazine writer said. The processor does have cache, just by a different name (and it’s not really drawn in the tables, but the L2 cache is.) Some people are going to make a big deal about how all SPE’s are floating point ALU’s, which don’t handle integer operations very fast or very efficiently. But the easy way to get around this while programming a cell, I would imagine, would be to just use the full 64bit signed floating point capability every time.

    Are the processors in either the 360 or Wii 64bit? If not, that’s a bit of a disadvantage. However, seeing as how the Cell is a 64-bit processor, it’s interesting to see that they made it a RISC machine. (The 80-20 principle [ 80% of the time, a program is using 20% of possible instructions ] is probably exceeded in that a smaller set of instructions are used a greater percent of the time. Also, what you get with having these multiple SPE’s on a chip is a TRUE vector processor, instead of replicating it with one ALU, and a microcontroller that performs loops. In graphics cards, most often the chips found are vector processors ( this is because rotations, translations, etc [other matrix operations {2D matrix for screen coordinates, 3D for program coordinates}] do the same task on many many many elements in a matrix or array. This whole reasoning leads me to take back what I said about difficulty to program, seeing that what you more than likely use the SPE’s for is altering matrices and pushing the display functions through, which isn’t really a difficult type of threading.

    However, video games do require a lot of threaded procedures, and making a RISC machine out of a 64-bit floating point ALU might get irksome. I am sure the designers of the chip have thought of this in advance and made examples and hints for game programmers to help solve problems they occur.

    I can’t wait to do shit like this IRL. It is very interesting to me.

  11. All I’ve got to say about the videos deleting themselves in 2 weeks is “Hooray for capture cards” I’ll just capture the video onto my computer and then put it back on my 360.

  12. Vector processors = processors that perform the same action on a large sample (ie array) of data(eg pixels or coordinates). There are special processors for doing these kinds of operations, mostly by just lowering the instruction set and therefore clock cycles spent changing internal variables in the processor. The opposite of this are scalar processors, which are very good at altering one value very quickly. Most multipurpose processors have logic units for doing both.

    Threading. Threading is hard to explain. But, as it is easy to understand from even basic programming, there are times that the main process of an application needs to wait to do something (like waiting for input from a user, or waiting to download a file). Instead of the process having to wait for these operations to complete, you can put them into a “Thread”. Needless to say, this complicates applications exponentially, but can increase performance greatly (and even make some things that would otherwise be impossible possible). This is also the only way to TRULY utilize the multiple cores in a processor, otherwise, the cores will act like 2 separate processors. Video games, compilers, CAD programs, etc, make heavy use of threading. This will be mostly performed by the main processors in these new consoles.

    Furthermore, everyone is making such a big deal about the PS3 having so many floating point processors, because most processors have functions for both floating points and integer. However, in many newer modeling/graphing specific languages (as I am sure that the PS3 language emulates), you can make your graphics treat all values (colors, integers, coordinates) as relative floating point numbers between a certain range.

    As for the songs deleting themselves on XBox, I don’t think that there is any way to completely avoiding the media being stored indefinitely, but most end-users won’t care enough to do it. I doubt it is impossible to turn the xbox into a huge p2p exploit, and I would actually go far enough to say that it is probably pretty easy for someone with knowledge.

    Infinite possibilities, infinite solutions. -Bill Gates, I think.. (jk!)

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