In the week since Microsoft revealed their iPad-challengers, we have all read a variety of opinions and analyses stemming from the limited info that Ballmer shared at the Surface unveiling event.

More interesting than the device features was the speculation beforehand of an Xbox-Surface combo.

On one hand, the Xbox-Surface pair would simply be a “pure” (closed?) Microsoft version of the many emerging whole-home solutions coming from leading Pay TV operators (think Comcast’s Xfinity AnyPlay feature which uses a special Motorola set-top box to stream Live Pay TV to Apple or Android tablets around the home, or DISH’s “Hopper” which replicates the main TV viewing experience on “Joeys” all around the house).

On the other hand, Xbox-Surface could be a potential blockbuster combo that hints at Microsoft’s latest “Living Room Domination Plan”, where a sleek new Xbox and Kinect replace a stodgy old STB and a Windows 8 Surface replaces a cluttered 40-button remote, thus enabling intuitive, advanced user interaction for game play and TV navigation. Add a Live TV source or two to the Xbox, OTT services and TV-Everywhere authenticated catch-up TV “channels”, plus a few exclusive content provider deals (interesting to Hollywood thanks to the sizable Xbox footprint), and Microsoft suddenly becomes a virtual service provider, that could either be a friend or a foe to today’s Pay TV operator.

Either way, the Xbox-Surface story is more interesting than Surface alone. As Microsoft likes to say, they could definitely be “better together“.

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