One of the things that excited me about the Xbox One was its ability to control your television and cable box. At launch, in Canada, it could only control your TV, but they did relatively promptly roll out the ability to control your cable box as well. I know that it’s not as relevant in some countries, such as the UK where cable boxes are rare (aside from Sky TV customers), but I’m in Canada where cable TV penetration has long been extremely high due to our rugged country, and massive distances between towns, making terrestrial broadcasts very difficult.
I’ve now tried it extensively. Am I still excited? Well, yes and no. I do like that it turns the TV on, and off, with the Xbox One. And I do love the ability to jump back and forth between TV, gaming, Xbox Video, and Netflix, without changing inputs on the TV. And doing it with my voice is even better.
But I hadn’t really thought the TV integration through. My Mum and Dad were early adopters of VCRs. As a bonus, they landed on the right side of the format war, too (VHS – for those who argue that Betamax was the “better” standard, I’d argue that capacity is a part of what makes a standard better, and Beta could never overcome VHS’ greater capacity. I dimly remember getting our first VHS VCR as a kid, which we rented for a year because they were so fabulously expensive to purchase. Before long we had two, and then three, and then four, as prices came down. We had banks of the things, and Mum read the TV Guide cover-to-cover every week looking for new episodes of programmes that met the tastes of the family members. On a couple of occasions we took two week vacations at the lake in the summer, only to come home halfway through so that we could change tapes and set new timers on the VCRs (those early VCRs were often limited to a maximum of 6-8 programmes that could be set at any one time). When I watched TV, I didn’t channel surf, I was “clearing off tapes” as we called it. I found out about new shows either through TV Guide, word of mouth, or ads during the shows I was already watching (if I happened to notice the ad, given I was fast-forwarding through the commercials).
As PVRs (or DVRs, as Americans call them) become more common, that digitally record your programmes for you and save them on a hard drive, this is more the norm than ever before. So the holy grail of “Xbox, go to History Channel” is here, and it works as advertised. But because I almost never watch live TV, I simply don’t care as much as I thought I would.