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Surprise: People are using the Xbox 360 for more than gaming

Digital Crave

Xbox console with Kinect sensor

When Bill Gates introduced the first Xbox to the world a decade ago most people saw it as a video game console. It was more than that.

The Xbox Live service that followed its launch was a Trojan Horse used by Microsoft to get into your living room. Recent data suggest it is working.

Microsoft recently announced that more people use their Xbox Live service for watching TV shows and movies online than for gaming. That means more people are probably watching South Park on Netflix via their Xbox 360 than they are fragging each other in Halo death matches.

"What we're seeing is that people are turning on the Xbox to play games and then keeping it on afterwards to get other types of entertainment," Yusuf Mehdi, head of Xbox marketing, told the Los Angeles Times.

This is not unique to the Xbox 360. The PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii both feature plenty of non-gaming applications ¬— many of them similar, or identical, to those on the Xbox 360. The difference is that Microsoft got there first, and they're not looking back.

So, what else can you do with your Xbox 360? Check it out:

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Microsoft partnerships

1. Watch nearly anything at anytime.
Microsoft has partnerships with Comcast XFINITY TV, HBO GO, MLB.TV and, of course, Netflix — among others. The need to switch to your cable box or dish receiver is receding as new applications come online. Also, if you have the Kinect peripheral you can control many of these applications with the sound of your voice or the wave of your hand.

2. Listen live
The Xbox 360 isn't going to replace your dominant digital music device, but it's trying. With applications such as iHeartRadio and last.fm you can turn your home entertainment center into a music machine. Is it worth it? That's up to you. You can easily plug your smartphone or computer into most speaker systems these days, so this one is a matter of choice.

3. Video Kinect
The jury is still out on how well the Kinect peripheral works with games. Many Kinect game releases have been disappointments. However, it's still an impressive piece of consumer tech that reads your body and your voice and makes video chatting with friends and family a breeze. Turn it on and it will track you around the room as you chat with friends around the globe. It's cheaper than long distance, just as easy as Skype and lets you enjoy video conversations in your living room on the biggest screen in the house.

Again, the Xbox 360 isn't the only console with these features. Sony's Playstation 3 does many of these things as well and has the benefit of a built-in Blu-ray player.

What's certain is that Microsoft took the first real step toward unleashing the non-gaming power of a games machine. As gaming continues to out-earn Hollywood and the music industry, the acceptance of these consoles in your homes will increase.

These boxes are more than meets the eye.

Note: This was written by Victor Paul Alvarez, a Digital Crave contributor.

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