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Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled its plans to bring live television services from 40 world-leading TV and entertainment providers to the Xbox 360 video game console in more than 20 countries this holiday season. The service will offer live and on-demand TV, movies, games, sports, music, and more.

"Today's announcement is a major step toward realizing our vision to bring you all the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, made easy," says Microsoft President Don Mattrick. "Combining the world's leading TV and entertainment providers with the power of Kinect for Xbox 360 and the intelligence of Bing voice search will make TV and entertainment more personal, social, and effortless."

Partners include Bravo, Comcast, HBO GO, Syfy, and Verizon FiOS in the United States; the BBC in the United Kingdom; Telefónica in Spain; Rogers On Demand in Canada; Televisa in Mexico; ZDF in Germany; and MediaSet in Italy; among others. They join existing entertainment partners such as AT&T, Hulu+, and Netflix in the United States; TELUS in Canada; BSkyB in the United Kingdom; Canal+ in France; Vodafone in Portugal; VimpelCom in Russia; and FOXTEL in Australia.

According to a blog post describing the service, customers will be able to watch favorite HBO or Syfy series like Game of Thrones or Paranormal Witness, listen to favorite music, and view the latest must-see web video on Xbox 360.

A separate video shows off the expected update, which will precede a spring 2012 Xbox 360 Dashboard update that will make the console's UI resemble that of Windows 8. In the video, you can see new full-screen video overlay controls, Bing voice search (via Kinect), and some Windows Phone integration, with the handset working as a remote control of sorts for the console;  more information is available on the Windows Phone blog.

Pricing and exact timing is unclear: A Microsoft press release notes that the service will require an Xbox LIVE Gold membership and that other subscriptions and/or fees can apply. One might logically assume that TV services from major providers such as Comcast and Verizon FIOS won't be free. I've been told separately to expect a Dashboard update in November, which makes sense from a timing perspective.