Jan. 4, 2012 at 3:12 PM ET
While Microsoft's Xbox 360 can now play live TV from the likes of Comcast and Verizon, and on-demand streaming video from a variety of partners, the system doesn't include include another function that's become a staple of TV viewing in recent years — digital video recording.
That might be set to change soon, though, as a new patent granted to Microsoft late last month by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office details "an integrated gaming and media experience ... including recording of content on a gaming console."
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The patent goes on to explain a "DVR application" integrated into the console menu that can record televised content while the user is playing games or even when the system is otherwise off. It might not be limited to TV shows either — the patent mentions the ability to potentially record "gaming experience (whether local or online), music, DVDs, and so on."
That last bit is kind of interesting, as recording commercial DVDs currently runs afoul of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, since it breaks the DVD's digital rights management (copying personal videos to the hard drive should be legally OK, though).
To be clear, the existence of a patent doesn't necessarily mean Microsoft will be unleashing a DVR feature any time soon — the company filed the patent idea way back in 2007, after all. The Xbox 360 isn't mentioned specifically in the patent, either, so this DVR feature might be held in reserve for Microsoft's next console, which is still shrouded in mystery.
Still, a DVR function seems like a logical use for those massive hard drives included in some of the higher-end Xbox 360s. It also seems like a great way to differentiate Microsoft's console from other competitors in the ongoing battle to become the one default set-top box in living rooms around the world.