Last fall, Microsoft released an Xbox One Digital TV Tuner in Europe and Australia only, providing users there with over-the-air (OTA) digital terrestrial TV access. Today, Microsoft announced that it is bringing OTA capabilities to Xbox One in the US and Canada, too. Curiously, this capability is not being provided by the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner, however.
Confused? Welcome to the club. But I think I can explain.
As I understand it, the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner is a USB-based peripheral for Xbox One that is currently sold only in Europe and Australia. According to Microsoft, this unique add-on is available today in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, and its availability will later be expanded to 11 new countries later this year. I have no idea what those countries are, and would like to see the US and Canada included in that list.
Part of today’s announcement is that support for the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner is expanding to preview members in 11 more European countries starting today, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland. So this device is being rolled out slowly, in stages. Presumably normal (non-preview member users) will gain access to Xbox One Digital TV Tuner functionality in the next few months.
So what about the US and Canada?
We are getting OTA TV capabilities. But we’re not getting the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner, at least not for now.
Instead, Microsoft is partnering with Hauppauge to provide compatibility with one of that firm’s USB-based OTA TV receivers. This means you can plug a $79.99 Hauppauge WinTV-955Q TV tuner (act quick: it’s only $62 at Amazon.com right now) into your Xbox One and an HDTV antenna—the $69 Mohu Leaf 50 Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna I purchased a month ago to test with Windows Media Center will work just fine—and add live TV to the list of entertainment options on your Xbox One.
I will of course be testing this: I just ordered that Hauppauge WinTV-955Q from Amazon.com. But based on my previous experience using the Mohu antenna with the Hauppauge tuner card in my desktop PC, you results can vary wildly. OTA programming is available all over the US and Canada for free, but your reception will depend on the strength and position of your antenna, which direct it faces, and so on. For this reason, Microsoft is also partnering with Mohu so you can get a rough idea of how many channels you can get: Visit the Mohu web site to find out.
Microsoft notes that once you enable OTA TV access on your Xbox One, you’ll gain access to a host of new features: the ability to watch live TV, add live TV listings to OneGuide, watch TV in Snap view, pause live TV, mark TV channels as favorites, use your voice to change channels with Kinect, and stream OTA live to Xbox One SmartGlass on your mobile devices.
What Microsoft doesn’t tell you, of course, is that one of those features is not recording. You cannot record live TV with Xbox One for some reason. You can only watch it.
So that would be a very obvious feature to add. But I’m equally curious why Microsoft isn’t simply selling its Xbox One Digital TV Tuner in the US and Canada? Why partner with Hauppauge on this instead?