The Xbox may have lost out in the high definition storage media battle, but its Xbox Live Marketplace to some extent negates this as people can download HD TV shows and movies direct to the Xbox via Xbox Live Marketplace.
tech.co.uk has been talking to Virgin Media and Microsoft about HD movie downloads on the Xbox, and the estimate is that a HD movie will take just 15 minutes to download on the 50Mbps cable broadband service when it rolls-out. This fits in nicely with a 50Mbps connection running flat out for the 15 minutes and the rough size of the HD content on Xbox Live Marketplace which is 5GB for the average film.
So how does this suggest Virgin Media are to change their traffic management rules, well the current flagship 20Mbps product only lets you download 3GB at peak times before throttling the connection back to 5Mbps. If the same limits were to apply to the 50Mbps product, the 5GB movie would take an hour. The inference from the Virgin Media comments is that it will take more than 5GB of download to trigger the management on the 50Mbps service, or there may be no management at all.
The HD content on Xbox Live appears to be 720p, and a 5GB file size suggests video encoding at around 4Mbps, once you allow for reasonable audio encoding. Whether this enough to provide a viewing experience that matches HD DVD or Blu-ray content which can be encoded at rates of 20 to 30Mbps remains to be seen.
If movie download services do take off in the UK the iPlayer effect could be the least of providers worries. The offer of the latest five blockbuster movies as a download for 85 pence each over Easter from Microsoft may show how popular movie downloads will be. Other games console news may increase broadband usage too, as the Sony PS3 is due a firmware update that will allow extra content for Blu-ray movies to be downloaded to the Sony PS3.