The Xbox 360 is a video game console developed by and produced for Microsoft that was released in 2005. The successor to the original Xbox, it is the second console in the Xbox series. The Xbox 360 features an online service, Xbox Live, expanded from its previous iteration on the original Xbox and is regarded as the strongest offering among seventh-generation consoles. In addition to online multimedia features, the Xbox 360 allows users to stream media from local PCs. These have helped the Xbox brand grown from gaming-only to encompassing all multimedia, turning it into a hub for “living-room computing environment”
The Xbox 360 sold much better than its predecessor, and although not the best-selling console of the seventh-generation, it is regarded as a success since it strengthened Microsoft as a major force in the console market at the expense of well-established rivals. The Xbox 360′s advantage over its competitors was due to the release of high profile titles from both first party and third party developers. TechRadar deemed the Xbox 360 as the most influential game system through its emphasis of digital media distribution, Xbox Live online gaming service, and game achievement feature. During the console’s lifetime, the Xbox brand has grown from gaming-only to encompassing all multimedia, turning it into a hub for “living-room computing environment”.
The Xbox 360 supports videos in Windows Media Video (WMV) format (including high-definition and PlaysForSure videos), as well as H.264 and MPEG-4 media. The December 2007 dashboard update added support for the playback of MPEG-4 ASP format videos. The console can also display pictures and perform slideshows of photo collections with various transition effects, and supports audio playback, with music player controls accessible through the Xbox 360 Guide button. Users may play back their own music while playing games or using the dashboard, and can play music with an interactive visual synthesizer.
Music, photos and videos can be played from standard USB mass storage devices, Xbox 360 proprietary storage devices (such as memory cards or Xbox 360 hard drives), and servers or computers with Windows Media Center or Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or higher within the local-area network in streaming mode. As the Xbox 360 uses a modified version of the UPnP AV protocol, some alternative UPnP servers such as uShare (part of the GeeXboX project) and MythTV can also stream media to the Xbox 360, allowing for similar functionality from non-Windows servers. This is possible with video files up to HD-resolution and with several codecs (MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV) and container formats (WMV, MOV, TS).