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There's a place in the living room for an Xbox streaming stick, if it's done right

The latest hot pre-E3 rumors are doing the rounds and one in particular suggests we could see an interesting new piece of hardware from Microsoft. Reported by Brad Sams on his podcast, The Sams Report, he suggested some form of streaming stick is in the pipeline.

Microsoft made a strong play for the living room with the Xbox One, but games consoles aren't necessarily what everyone wants there. That and the Xbox One is a pretty enormous thing to have in your entertainment center.

Meanwhile, Google, Amazon (opens in new tab) and Roku (opens in new tab) all have tiny little dongles that can plug discretely into your TV and offer access to all your digital content for a minimal outlay.

Xbox One

Xbox One controller

Microsoft has a content ecosystem of its own, while also allowing access to several others through the Xbox One, and previously the Xbox 360. There's no reason there shouldn't be a dedicated streaming device to plug the gap between nothing and the Xbox One. So long as it's done right.

The first thing it would have to do is make sure the major services people care about are covered. That means the likes of Netflix and Hulu, and a big boon would be Amazon Prime (opens in new tab). This is the one big gap on Google's Chromecast platform, and while Amazon would most likely prefer to sell you a Fire Stick (opens in new tab), a partnership between the two would be huge.

The ace could turn out to be Windows 10

Content shouldn't necessarily be a barrier to purchasing a product. If Microsoft were to go down the Fire Stick and Roku route, having app partnerships in place will be crucial. If it were to adopt a Chromecast-like set up, opening a cross-platform API for app developers to embrace would be essential. When it comes to streaming online music and video, Miracast just isn't enough.

Then there's the price. A rumored $100 is a little troublesome. Chromecast is around a third of that, as is the Fire Stick. So either it has to be cheaper, or it has to have an ace up its sleeve.

That ace could turn out to be Windows 10. With an abundance of Stick PCs already out there, it's already possible to have a full Windows computer hanging from an HDMI port on your television. It'd be almost impossible for Microsoft not to run Windows 10 on any such device.

Which opens up a few big possibilities, including UWP apps, Xbox One game streaming and Continuum. UWP apps are already hitting the Xbox One later this year, and so the TV is already a target for those interested.

Xbox game streaming

Game streaming is already built into Windows 10, so that part wouldn't be much of an issue you'd think. It still relies on good quality network speeds, though, so that would then lead to hardware, which would lead to a higher price. But honestly, that'd be worth it. Valve has the Steam Link, why shouldn't Microsoft have an Xbox Link?

Any form of wireless stick you'd also assume would have support to use Continuum from Windows 10 Mobile.. Continuum is a differentiating feature for Microsoft, so get it out there in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

Xbox is a strong brand with high satisfaction and loyalty

Ultimately all of this is rumor and "what if" until Phil Spencer takes the stage in LA in early June. Microsoft still falls a little short in the living room, with the Xbox One not fitting into that space as well as they might have expected.

There's absolutely room to have a small, fairly inexpensive streaming stick with the Xbox logo on it, access to Microsoft's content ecosystems and Windows 10 apps and possibly more. Sony, even, has the PSTV which isn't exactly the same idea, but works as an accessory to the main PlayStation ecosystem.

Xbox is a strong brand with high levels of customer satisfaction and ultimately, loyalty. It'd make a lot of sense to leverage it on a product like this.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

99 Comments
  • They need to support 23.976fps 1080p video, neither the Chromecast nor the Amazon stick will do native framerate. If MS were to do that and support Amazon Prime I'd buy one Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • just native video period (23.97, 24, 25, 30, 50, 60 fps) would be awesome.
  • I live in the UK, our TV is at 50hz, 25fps interlaced. The motion judder on 24p material from Netflix/Amazon is awful when output at 60Hz. Why streaming devices can't support native framerate 1080p or 2160p I don't know Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Wow I have just ten minutes ago just bought a tv fire stick just loading it with kodi & xbmc then read this crazy, it's a good idea there is room if product & price point are correct.
  • Quote Brian2014 “They need to support 23.976fps 1080p video… If MS were to do that and support Amazon Prime I'd buy one” This would be great. Or even better would be 4k, so I could stream 4k Netflix and Amazon. That would be a stretch for a $99 product but would help give MS a leap on the competition. Quote Main Article “If Microsoft were to go down the Fire Stick and Roku route, having app partnerships in place will be crucial. If it were to adopt a Chromecast-like set up, opening a cross-platform API for app developers to embrace would be essential.” A mix of this would be perfect. Having the ability to use Windows PlayTo(Cast) along with a healthy list of Streaming Media / Gaming providers would be just, perfect, for me at least.
  • I don't see the point of this unless it supported UHD HDR streaming. Also would be nice to be in a box format instead of a stick to allow for Ethernet.
  • I'd second the box idea. It would lend itself to more options, ethernet, maybe a USB port for a controller, a thumb drive or SD port. Sticks are nice but really, my stuff is plugged int the back of the receiver/surround sound amp, HDMI switch, not the TV, so the size savings isn't a big deal, and often requires a short extener cable anyway.
  • The Xbox One is in a box format.
  • What does run 1080p at then? My FireStick Voice seems to broadcast 1080p, no clue the framerate but seems solid to me...
  • That's the problems with these solutions their weak. Even roku stick struggles & hit with recoil
  • The pricing needs to be keen if its purely a streaming stick with not much functionality like the Firestick and Chromecast otherwise you may as well buy an Intel Computestick for full Windows 10 functionality and a wireless keyboard/trackpad.
  • Yea, but even if this was only £20 I'd still consider paying the extra £30 it cost to get my Stick PC from Amazon. For the price of two bluray films it's not worth the saving to get a cut down device that can't run full Windows. A stick pc does so much more than any streaming stick, unless this new stick can run Steam and Kodi? I doubt it.
  • And a lot of people (myself included) don't want a PC in their TV.
  • Totally agree on that front. While I would much prefer a full PC than the built in Samsung Smart TV OS, I've been looking for the Xbox experience without shelling out for an actual Xbox and this looks like it could be the perfect fit for me. I still like my idea of having Xbox Mode on Windows 10 Desktop, similar to Tablet Mode, as soon as you connect a controller it would prompt you to switch and then you get the Xbox UI, that would mean you can get the best of both worlds from a single PC stick and if you want barebones streaming you could grab this new Xbox Stick. Windows 10 is all about devices morphing to whatever you need at the time, so adding more options is a great thing and only helps drive UWP further. I'm looking forward to it. Posted from my Lumia 950
  • Desktop mode, tablet mode, console mode... Goes well actually
  • .. and phone mode... No wait... :-/ (feeling dissappointed about MS decision to close exNokia works.)
  • With the xbox store drm this could happen and would save me a little money, I have 4 xbox 360s and 2 xbox ones at the house I would love to see this happen.
  • Bloody love that idea! I completely agree that whilst I want the capabilities of a full PC in my TV, I don't want a desktop UI. The 'media' mode should also work with a standard living-room style remote too, not just an Xbox controller. If MS pulled their finger out, flexed some of their cloud/virtualisation muscle, and included a way to stream triple-A Xbox games on a rental basis would also be a massive differentiation to what is currently on the market.
  • I have an Intel ComputeStick. It's more expensive than a streaming stick, but it can do everything regardless of there being an app or not.
  • I have the Lenovo branded version of the Atom Compute Stick, which I got from Amazon UK for only £10 more than a Roku Stick. Can't see what this MS stick is going to bring to the party now. Like so many things, this is MS now being too late to yet another party. They are nothing if not consistent, I suppose...
  • Compute Sticks are cool, but the regular consumer isn't going to buy that, even if we computer geeks are. Streaming sticks are about more than just the tech inside of them; like the (overpriced yet successful) Apple TV, this sort of device's main selling point is it's ease of use and simplicity, something you don't get by running full-blown windows on your TV. Sent from a shiny electronic rectangle.
  • Microsoft was late to the tablet market and are now the only successful ones in that space. The same could happen with the Xbox Stick, but we will see.
  • A compute stick is really just a tiny pc. Roku, Amazon fire, chrome cast, apple tv, PS4, Xbox One,  this new microsoft stick and box are specefically for the TV. These things work much better for a tv then regular windows 10. Playstation also has a TV box that is for apps and streaming from your PS4 to this box.
    This stick and box from microsoft will be for apps and game streaming on your TV. I is made for your TV, mostly be for media (tv, movies, music) and be able to stream the games from an xbox to these things. This will attract people who own an xbox one if they have multiple TVs because then they can have the same experience in a different room as they do where ever they have their xbox one for a cheaper price. It can also attract people who use Windows. UWP apps will be on this device. I can buy 1 app from the store and it will be on my PC, phone, xbox and these two new devices.
  • Actually no. An "app" is an end user program. AKA microsoft office, web browser, calculator, and every program that runs on windows or any OS is called an App. Apps are programs but Microsoft Windows is a program but not an app. Your Intel ComputeStick runs apps.
     
  • UWP and game streaming are gonna be the keys here. Imagine being able to say "it runs all the apps the Xbox does and even lighter weight games, and then for the big stuff just stream" they can sell it as having a console in every room of the house while only having to put up the money for one.
  • Imagine? All I can imagine is saying 'It runs less than a stick PC and costs the same'.
  • But people don't want to deal with the complexity of full Windows in a stick PC. That's (plus price) why Chromecast/Roku/Fire sticks are popular.
  • People who want simple are not the ideal Windows ecosystem target market for streaming from their desktop rig etc. Also, a stick PC is pretty much plug and play. It picks up the settings from the cloud these days, so all that needs doing is installing the apps from the store and arranging the start screen. Pretty much the same as setting up a Roku stick. The reason streaming sticks got popular is because they came out before cheap stick PCs. I think they will go away, or be moved to second TVs like my old Roku stick. Gotta move with the times... (feels odd typing that on a Windows Phone...).
  • Why not make something like Richard said that isn't complex like full Windows, but you can still stream games from Xbox/PC? I imagine something with the Xbox One's interface and support for UWP apps (I know this is coming to Xbox). This would satisfy both the simpler customers that just want something to stream Netflix, and the more hardcore users that want to stream games from their PC/Xbox.
  • They tried that approach for tablets with WinRT. I thought it was a good idea, but I was wrong. In the end, a cut down Windows imitation is just delayed regret. Why bring back WinRT for the Stick form factor? I doubt it'll be any more successful with a larger screen, I don't think that's enough to resurrect RT.
  • A tablet isn't a streaming stick.
  • And RT isn't Windows.
  • Its simple.  If users want simplicity and apps they get a Fire TV, Shield TV, etc.  Power users will want something akin to the Intel compute stick.
  • I think you both have valid points, but I do think most people value simplicity in their homes. Microsoft does have a huge market-share among businesses and 'serious PC users', true, but if they really want to tap into the home entertainment market they must offer some Chromecast-like devices. So far it's all been rather fragmented and lacking in direction from their part. The MSWDA is pretty cool if you are willing to put up with the weird aspect ratios (and having to own a PC which is nearby the TV), and the Xbox is obviously great for many purposes. But they still need that one, simple, appealing, true plug-and-play media device that works for regular consumers.
  • My stick: Open box, plug in, log in, hit update, open browser, play the world. How does that get simplified exactly?
  • Using UWP apps instead of running everything in a browser.
  • Yea, full Windows 10 can do that too, but it adds complexity as you have to open the store and hit that install button. The browser is there for those who find that too much of a hassle.
  • And then you get an interface that was designed for 17-30 inch screens on something much bigger. People can figure out app stores just fine.
  • I thought so too, but since you thought a full Windows device would be too complex for users I thought it best to show the simplest way to go from box to film playing on screen. Which point are you trying to make here? Mine or yours? Demarcation, mate.
  • Do you have a remote with a stick PC? NOOO!!! That's a PC. These are for running on a TV. A stick PC is a small PC. It doesn't work well on a TV. Just like how a Windows PC wouldn't work well on a phone.
  • I have been hoping for a device like Apple TV or Android TV, but from Microsoft.  Would be nice, especially with UWP.
  • I've been surprised for a while now that MS is so behind on that, as that is one of the best places for them to a) expand their OS-customer base (OEMs), and b) give a kickstart for their UWP-strategy, since TV users generally care about fewer apps (streaming and games mainly) and since it's a relatively uncontested area. Gaining a foothold in TVs could enable them to get more users and developers get used to W10 & UWP (not to mention the possibility to add features that interconnect with other W10 devices).
  • Hopefully with this they will fix the multiple user problem.  I have 2 xbox ones and if I want to play game on one and my wife wants to watch something on the other, the apps belong to me, so she forces me out of xblive.  It's a sad state right now.
  • Wow, I wonder why they didn't just take a look at the way Steam does it? None of that difficulty. Can't understand why MS would imagine customers would prefer their restrictive approach.
  • I think when MS had to retreat from the initial plans prior to the launch of xbox one, lots of stuff got broken.  The family sharing concept may have solved things.   To me it should onlyl lock a user down to a game. If i'm playing a game, the other xbox shouldn't allow that game to launch, but everything else needs to be fair game. Switching xbox live users needs to be more like switching users on the pc. Since I originally downloaded hulu or netflix, its tied to me.
  • I'm not really that big a fan of Steam to be honest...I don't care about PC games, but it's still great that they can both exist pretty liberally. So it's because of me okay? Sorry. =[ I do what I want... =p
    Windows 10 RULZZ yer FACE!!!
  • They did intially, and the media backlash forced them to do a 180 before launch.
  • Whichever xbox is your designated "home xbox" can play content without you being signed in. That should solve your issue. So if you designate your wife's as the home xbox she could access your content without being signed and you could play on yours because you would be signed in Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • So I'm aware of that and I do have one set to home, but the problem is there isn't a his an hers xbox. Also, even with one set to home, if i play a game that requires me to sign in to get my progress like Batman, then the other console is stuck just watching TV.  The system is really bad in the current state
  • Create an account for your wife, make the Xbox your home xbox and disable auto sign on the Xbox she uses.
  • So this is what I'm doing and everything still wants me to be signed in.  When I access something that needs xbox live such as a game to get my saved content, it kicks the other box offline and that other one might only be doing something like running hulu.  I've had 2 xbox's for almost a year and the setup has been nothing but frustrating.  Thankfully I don't get to play many games so the issue hasn't been as big of a deal. 
  • Create an account for your wife and go in settings logged in your account to set both xbox as yours. This will make your Xbox live gold available for all accounts on both console and your wife will be able to have her own setup preferences.
  • They'll have to change their policies for what can apps be streamed. While streaming the XB1 to my laptop, if I open Netflix or other similar media apps it'll stop and tell me i'm not allowed to stream this app. Could they differentiate the rules for the stick?
  • That's down to Netflix, likely, not Microsoft. There are rules when it comes to media content. Any product like this would need native Netflix access like Xbox One, Fire TV, Chromecast etc.
  • Why would you want to stream netflix from your Xbox when the app is available on your PC?!
  • Heh.. that does seem like a convoluted way to get Netflix.. :D I certainly wouldn't need it if I was streaming to a laptop, However, if the XBox treats the laptop the same as it treats the XB1 stick, there are problems., MS or the app's author will need to loosen those restrictions. Chances are that they'll have a completely different profile so this may be a moot point.
  • If the technology applied to streaming Xbox to PC was applied to PCs and phones you can have continuum everywhere. Microsoft already announced the "connect" app that will allow you to open continuum on an PC with the app open, so clearly they are going to have the technology applied in all their Windows devices.  Now if on top of "streaming screens" like with Xbox One on PC you allowed just media to be streamed, or particular apps, you would have a chromecast rival for the living room. If that API would come by default in the Video player, then any video opened on Windows 10 could be streamed, you wouldn't have to change the app because the default video player would have it. The bad part of this is that you would still have to have the video open and running in your device, unlike with chromecast. The other only thing we'd need is a Steam Link app on Xbox so you can play your PC games on the Xbox. Same for origin and Battle.net.  
  • Easier to just grab a stick PC and buy all games for your gaming PC, then stream to TV. The games are cheaper and better that way. Consoles are only useful for people who don't have a gaming PC really.
  • Game streaming is the only thing they can really push that could differentiate their offering, all the Windows 10 stuff will only appeal to Microsoft fans because no one else would be interested in using a keyboard and mouse but selling it as an Xbox one lite (via streaming) + your usual streaming apps would be a more attractive sell. But for that to work they must give the Xbox the ability to stream and work standalone as well otherwise again the appeal will be limited.
  • Something along these lines is exactly what I'm missing from Microsoft. I have an Xbox One, but I mostly play games on my PC and sometimes the Xbox feels a bit clunky considering that it's not really part of the TV. It's an additional 'thing' you need to boot up and navigate around to find what you're looking for. Give me a streaming device that lets me stream games and other media from my PC (flawlessly) as well as play music on Groove, stream movies on Film & TV (please rename that bloody app, by the way), and browse Edge. Then I'm good!      
  • I have my cable box hooked up through the Xbox One so for me, it's definitely part of the TV.
  • I hope they are targeting the apple tv, an xbox lite is what they need, since a thing like apple tv or sony pstv if updated yearly like phones, might surpass consoles and make them irrelevant in the not so distant future considering they expect a 10 year life time
  • I don't understand why we can't just get little devices with each app and a thing to connect them all to, that way we can have lots of little devices everywhere! @.@
  • Ah, so you've visited my home then? :)~
  • lol =p
  • Yes, cool i want it!!
  • All they have to do is not overprice it and market it.  Or the opposite of how they've done Windows Phone.
  • I would mainly stream video, and until they fire whoever is in charge of that Movies & TV app and get someone less lazy and more serious in there, I wouldn't touch it.
  • Dream machine. Microsoft DVR with uwa, full cable support, Skype camera accessory, streaming, Xbox controller support, wireless continuum for all tablets/phones ios and android. Want high end gaming? purchase the Xbox gaming upgrade component with upgraded gpu and vr support. Keep major Nelson off home screen. Equals domination of living room by Microsoft. Chance of anything less being successful zero.
  • Microsoft has an ecosystem nobody uses. Nobody will buy an xbox stick. it'll be more expensive, sold in limited channels, microsoft or xbox branded, and DOA. And they'll abandon right away it when nobody buys it, screwing the few loyal users who did. 
  • Right. You can tell all this about a product only rumoured with no specific details and nothing concrete at all that the world only heard about yesterday?
  • No. i can tell this because it would be a microsoft product. nothing else matters. 
  • Because no-one uses the Xbox One at all, do they. Course not.
  • you're talking about their literally single consumer successful product, and it's one currently getting creamed by a company which posted years of multibillion dollar losses, and retreats from almost every market they were in. Even the Band 1, which sold beyond their admittedly low expectations was immedietly abandoned after the band 2 came out (I own 1st and 2nd gen bands). This product will be a failure if real. 
    nobody wants microsoft products. And the xbox brand isn't an advantage.  
  • But isn't Windows an incredibly successful consumer product? It dominates the PC OS market. Skype? Office? And talking about Xbox is incredibly relevant here as it is an Xbox TV stick?
  • windows is an incredibly successful enterprise product that consumers use. It's also dying relatively quickly. skype is dying too, mostly because it sucks, and there are far better alternatives, and it was a purchase. Office is enterprise. 
    it's fine to talk about xbox, it's just the single exception, not the norm. People don't desire microsoft products. I do. i'm on windows central. we're just not enough. 
  • No it's been on the cards for a while,
  • This could be a hit, add all the major microsoft windows hit points however with recent history i doubt they will and it will fall short
  • Sub-$50 will get me to bite. $75-100 probably scares me off.
  • Depends if it's an actual stick or not.  I paid $130 for a Roku 4 recently.
  • Put an OTA tuner in it with all the available streaming apps(netflix,hulu, amazon, sling tv) and i'm sold. 
  • Problem with cable/ota is that standards are multiple and MS sucks supporting things globally.
  • I would rather have something like the Nvidia Shield (which I have) I want to be able to play anything I throw at it.  4K (23.97, 24, 25, 30, 45, 50, 60fps) HDR10 HDR DV and all the possible variations for 1080p DTS MA, ATMOS, DTS X, Audio passthrough, etc.  
  • I'd totally get one, I've been waiting for it to come.
  • Agreed.
  • Xbox RT. What could go wrong? Posted from my Nexus 5X
  • Idk about this. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android (V10 or 5x)
  • An Xbox stick would be great given the fact that it's pretty much of a nightmare for anyone who only owns either a Windows Phone or a Surface RT to stream anything from them to anywhere. Microsoft's Display Adapter is not nearly good enough.   I just hope they avoid the temptation of making it depend on Windows apps. Because it they do, it's half-way there to fail. No one cares for Windows apps. Developer support for Windows apps is very limited. And, of course, there's the lack of YouTube. I'd rather they keep it app-free and as simple as possible. A Chromecast-alike would take them a long way. And if it would support Miracast AND GoogleCast, it would be a double win for Microsoft.
  • How about an Xbox stick controlled by an app on your phone?  That would be cool.
  • Make it a streaming stick but use P2P protocol so you don't need an Xbox but can use someone else's if they haven't set a hidden  privacy option. 
  • "Microsoft still falls a little short in the living room" How about the bedroom? A Windows 10 stick should do wonders there too. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I think the Xbox name is not the right brand for these products if they are targetting general consumers.
    Xbox is for serious gamers.
    It just doesn't resonate as an entertainment brand.
    Windows 8 tried and failed to leverage the Xbox name for entertainment apps ('xbox music') but many people just didn't get it. They were confused 'i don't play games' or 'i don't have an xbox'.
    If the streaming devices are meant for general consumers rather than gamers, then Microsoft's best brand for this type of thing is 'Microsoft'.
  • I use my Xbox One mainly for media.  I've tried many streaming sticks and find the experience to be lacking.  If Microsoft releases a more powerful streaming device in the form of a Amazon Fire TV or Roku 4 that's more powerful, I'd be first in line to buy one for every tv in my house.
  • The problem with the XB1 is the lack of apps.  The Xbox 360 has more video streaming apps than the XB1.
  • I think people are expecting this to support apps out of the store. UWP at least.
  • XBOX Stick !!!!!! -  I have Lenovo HDMI PC Stick. Its does everthing from content to web browsing  , email to games and etc because its a full blow Windows 10 PC with access to variety of content includingMS store. . Its supporst SD , Card USB. All for the price of $70.   I wonder what  more XBOX stick can do at $100 price point compared to Lenovo PC stick.   If the XBOX stick is going to head to head with amazon and google ,  it should be under $30 with ablity browse, variety of content, light weight gaming and  miracast. :)
  • I am cautious about a stick because you need ethernet connectivity for stable bandwidth to support HD & 4K Streaming my house if fully wired in every room and at every TV location for ethernet, so I would be ok with "very" slim and smal rectangle box. It needs to pull power via USB connection to TV or over HDMI.  If you can give me a Wifi Stick with the same capability and an ethernet option I'm ok with that also. Features: Bring a tweeked XBOX Interface w/ Web Browser, Ability to stream from Xbox One to the Stick for Games, ability to connect to network storage, MicroSD Support for DVR & Media Storage, support for network attached cable tuner adapters (Ceton for example), Comcast, TWC, Verizion FIOS, etc app support, Netfliz, Hulu, HBO, SHO, etc apps I would be good.  I would assume it will run a light weight version of Windows 10 so that I can install Kodi as well.  This would solidify my Windows EcoSystem. I have 2 Lumia Phone 950, 1 Lumia Icon, 1 Lumia 950 XL, 2 Windows 8 Media Center machines w/ Ceton Tuners controlling my TV and DVR & Streaming, 2 Xbox One's, 2 Xbox 360's, 3 Toshiba Windows 10 Laptops, 1 Samsung Series 7 Slate running Windows 10 and a 7" Windows 10 Tablet.  Put this out and I can start consolidating the big stuff.
  • I just want to play Steam with and XB1 controller.  Is that too much to ask?
  • Get a Steam link and plug in an Xbox controller. Wish granted Posted via the Windows Central App for Android