Netflix and Microsoft announced a deal earlier today that allows Xbox 360 owners to download movies through their game consoles, which appears to be another step in the software company’s Trojan Horse approach to winning the living room/media-server wars. Will this give it an edge over Apple TV? MG Siegler seems to think so — he’s dropped his earlier championing of Roku’s media server box and is now calling Microsoft the winner. I’m not so sure just yet, however. Apple TV has its flaws, but so does the Xbox, as more than one person has pointed out (Chris Albrecht of NewTeeVee still likes the Roku server, and so does Webomatica).

I’ve been looking for a media-server solution for some time now. I’ve used a repurposed desktop PC that I hooked up to the TV, and I bought a MediaGate audio/video server (essentially an external hard drive with audio and video output jacks) which unfortunately isn’t working at the moment, and I’ve thought about buying an Apple TV or an Xbox or a Mac Mini — the latter being what my friend Rob Hyndman uses as a media player for all his movies, music, photos and so on.

The Mini is about twice the cost of the Apple TV, but it has more features because it’s a full PC. The AppleTV and the Xbox are about the same price at $350 or so (not much more than my MediaGate drive cost), but of course one plays games and the other doesn’t. That doesn’t mean all that much to me — although I like video games, I’m more interested in the media server part of the equation. The Xbox will play pretty much any kind of Divx, Xvid and other video formats, which as far as I know the AppleTV won’t. That could be the deal-breaker for me.

One of the biggest issues for a Canadian, however, is the amount of content on either box, which is underwhelming at best — not so much when it comes to movies, but certainly when it comes to TV shows. If what you like is anything made by the CBC and the occasional CTV show like Little Mosque on the Prairie, then you are probably going to be in heaven. Otherwise, you are out of luck. Got any thoughts about which is better, Apple TV or the Xbox? Let me know in the comments.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

6 Responses to “Is the Xbox the living-room winner?”
  1. […] behind our American counterparts, and this announcement just means we’re even further behind. As Mathew Ingram says: If what you like is anything made by the CBC and the occasional CTV show like Little Mosque on the […]

  2. I've long been with you on the apple tv/mac mini/roku/xbox decision/debate. I have been very close to getting an apple tv, mac mini and roku numerous times over the past several months. Now i'm really glad I waited, since I already have the xbox.

    To me this makes the apple tv rather pointless, who would spend about the same amount of money to get a device with less content than the 360 — and lacking the entire gaming aspect? but certainly an argument can be made for the mac mini – i would use it as a dvr and also to surf the web, watch hulu, etc on my tv. most consumers will never do that however.

    roku could get interesting again depending on who else they add to the service mix. if it's hulu, that would be huge. even joost would be cool.

    i think apple needs to cut a deal immediately and get nbc content back on apple tv – maybe even one to get hulu on the device. microsoft i would assume is going to stop them from getting netflix (hastings is on msft's board), but if they could match MSFT, i would consider an apple tv again.

  3. It certainly makes the decision easier if you already have an Xbox. But what if you didn't — would you still go with the Xbox because of Netflix? It definitely adds a lot of content (even if the bulk of those movies are crap that no one would watch even for free).

    I would agree that if Apple can get Hulu or something like that on there, it would even the score somewhat — although of course as a Canadian, I am apparently constitutionally prevented from consuming Hulu content :-)

  4. Hey Mathew,

    I am in t.o. and use hulu all the time. Install http://www.hotspotshield.com/, an extremely small plugin that gives you a US based address through a VPN.
    Hulu works just fine with it.

    I already have an xBox so I'm a little biased, but if I didn't I'd get the mac mini. A PC has tremendous advantage over both the xBox and AppleTV in terms of flexibility.

  5. thanks for sharing

    best regards

    latest xbox news

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