Here’s why Xbox integration with set-tops is not a bad thing

According to the Verge, Microsoft is planning on a tight integration 0f the next-gen Xbox with TV set-tops. According to the report,

..the functionality will work by taking a cable box signal and passing it through to the Xbox via HDMI, allowing Microsoft’s console to overlay a UI and features on top of an existing TV channel or set-top box. We’re told that this is a key part of the next-generation Xbox and that it will go a step further than Google’s TV implementation thanks to Microsoft’s partnerships with content providers.”

With the obvious disclaimer that these are just rumors at this point, it’s worth asking if this level of integration with an old-world TV technology like carrier set-tops is a good thing?

Over at GigaOM, Janko serves up a resounding no. In fact, he goes on to call it “the ultimate admission of defeat.”.  From Janko’s piece:

Fast forward to 2013, and Microsoft’s big idea for the future of television is an HDMI cable? It’s the ultimate admission of defeat, and it comes with a heavy price: Microsoft puts its integration of live TV feeds into its Xbox  at the mercy of cable operators, which could at any point in time break the integration and make your picture go black thanks to a sneaky little piece of copy-protection technology called HDCP.

I do get Janko’s fear about Microsoft going overboard with carrier and pay-TV integration, but I have a feeling that Microsoft is probably anticipating numerous use-case scenarios, and they’re likely not going to go all-in with a pay-TV and set-top integration requirement for all users.

Think about it: the Xbox caters to young men – the biggest group of cord-nevers and cord-shavers that there are. To think that the company would actually look to force their most loyal customers into to become pay TV subscribers is likely underestimating even Microsoft.

Now of course I say likely because, as some know, I’ve found the company to be a bit heavy-handed on the Microsoft  “overhead”, but that still doesn’t mean I think they’re suicidal.

Here’s what I think: Microsoft is anticipating a number of types of use-cases for entertainment apps over the life-cycle of the next-gen Xbox, and while many in the cord-cutter world think pay TV is knocking on death’s door, in reality the vast majority of US households still pay for a cable bundle.

And if that’s the case, why in the world wouldn’t Microsoft make tight set-top integration one of the potential options for their consumers?