Rumors have been swirling around what Microsoft might have up its sleeve for its Xbox platform at the upcoming E3 expo next week. Some have speculated that announcements will be limited solely to some new software titles (such as Forza Motorsport 4 and a new Star Wars title – both of which will bring extensive Kinect integration), while others have suggested that Microsoft might surprise us all with a hardware-related announcement.
But at least one major announcement has been all but confirmed by WinRumors – that of a new Xbox LIVE Diamond tier, which will bring a subscription TV service to the Xbox platform.
Citing sources close to Microsoft, WinRumors reveals that the announcement will be made on Monday, but that MS is still working tirelessly behind the scenes on last-minute negotiations to ensure that all of the requisite agreements with rights holders and contents providers are in place ahead of the announcement.
Xbox LIVE Diamond is believed to be the culmination of months of work on an internal MS project known as ‘Orapa’. First revealed by ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley back in March, Orapa is a combination of the Xbox LIVE platform fused with Microsoft’s Mediaroom IPTV system, and some have suggested that it may even include elements of ‘Ventura’. This is a set of services in development by Microsoft focused on improving discovery of music and video content, but it’s not yet known if it’s a standalone product, or if its features will be baked into existing products like Zune.
There’s been extensive discussion in recent weeks over the future of the Zune brand, and this may well be the beginning of a transition that sees Zune phased out, with Xbox becoming the dominant entertainment brand for Microsoft.
In fact, in a posting on the Microsoft TechNet blog this week, Frank Shaw (corporate VP for communications at MS) stated:
Put simply, Xbox = entertainment, and is core to our entertainment strategy… The vision for Xbox is straightforward: All of the entertainment you want. With the people you care about. Made easy… That is why you’ll see Xbox marketed more as an entertainment brand this year.”
So, it looks like there’s plenty of exciting new features coming to Xbox LIVE and E3 is the place to find out about them – Microsoft will be streaming its ‘Xbox@E3’ announcements live at Xbox.com, and as always, we’ll have all the coverage you need right here on Neowin.