With claims that the new Xbox will "change entertainment forever", Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One.
But what happened to the other 359? It seems that Microsoft has taken on Playstation’s console numbering system, giving it some room to grow over the next few iterations. I imagine that doubling the number in the title, as many had guessed Microsoft would do in naming the next gen console, to Xbox 720 would get either confusing or tiresome or both (Xbox 1440? Xbox 2880? Those are dial up modem sounding numbers!).
So they kept it simple. A new starting point for what they are obviously considering a new start in how a gaming console becomes a part of your entertainment experience. Notice I didn’t say “gaming experience”. The goal here is, obviously, to no longer make simply gaming consoles. Microsoft wants to create a device that is as ubiquitous in the living room or family room as your TV or even your couch. Where you go to relax and be entertained, they want to make sure you have an Xbox One, even if you never play a game (though they definitely want that also). And now it’s okay if you lose the controller to your television. From now on, you’ll be verbally telling your TV what you want to watch. It will know your face and your voice and customize your experience to the things you love. Basically, they want you and your TV to have a “special relationship” (they literally said that in the launch event).
Microsoft’s goal is to give you an all-in-one home entertainment system: simple, instant, and complete. Hardcore gamers may rankle at the idea of their fun box being co-opted by the masses, but they need not be so grumpy. Why should you switch from one device to the next when you want to watch TV or play a game or browse the web? (that last one will still take some convincing for some people) Why shouldn’t you be able to watch an NFL game and get instant updates on your fantasy football league at the same time? (as a geek I have no idea what that means) What gamers will soon have to realize is that the Xbox isn’t just for gamers anymore. It’s for everyone… if Microsoft gets their way (I’m sure Sony will have something to say about that).
So what did we learn today? The Xbox One looks like a much shinier betamax (go ask your parents). Oh, it’s not nearly as clunky and thick, but it’s much boxier than the more curvaceous Xbox 360. It comes with an upgraded Kinect bar and a supposedly more ergonomic controller. The interface continues the paned look of Windows 8 without actually being Widows 8 (thankfully). And, yes, if you want to have access to your content instantly, it will be an “always on” experience (though, according to their FAQ, not an “always connected” to the internet experience, as some had feared). By simply saying “Xbox on”, the Xbox instantly takes over your TV. No load up. It’s just there. It logs you into your profile and is ready to receive your commands, either by voice or by hand gestures. To see the menu showing what’s available to you (along with access to what you had recently watched or played), just say “xbox go home” (if you’re not already on that screen). The UI gives you not only access to what you like most, but also to what’s “trending” among your friends and the world at large.
And if the Xbox One works as promised, you’ll never need to touch your TV remote again. Simply say “Xbox watch TV” and you’re instantly watching TV. You can just as easily switch to music, Internet Explorer, or back to your game. No load time. No delay. However, if you still like using your hands, you can gesture in a way that can change your viewing experience. If you’re watching a movie, you can choose to hold your palms out at the TV and then bring them together as if you were shrinking a window, revealing the Home screen. To go back to the movie, just put your hands together and pull them apart to expand the window.
If you like doing two things at once, you can choose to “snap” items alongside what you’re currently doing. For example, in the demo, they were watching the first JJ Abrams Star Trek film. By saying “snap Internet Explorer”, the movie moves over to reveal a panel that lets you view the web browser containing items related to what you’re watching. In this case, it let them learn more about Star Trek Into Darkness and allowed them to buy movie tickets for the feature. If you feel like holding a video conversation while watching TV or a movie, you can Skype with another person by simply saying “Xbox answer call” when someone rings you up via the installed app. (just be sure you’re presentable – put some pants on!)
To put it in their own words: Xbox One is the beginning of Intelligent TV.
Critics may scoff at the idea that Xbox miraculously gives you access to live TV on your TV, like a glorified cable box, but you can be sure that it’s part of a much bigger strategy. As television viewing moves away from more traditional cable and network standards, the device you use to obtain content becomes much more important. There may come a day that you no longer watch TV at a time that the networks choose. It won’t be simply because you recorded it on your DVR. Soon, you’ll just know it’s there to view and you’ll watch it when you want. If that device that collects and controls that programming is the Xbox One, then Microsoft has done their job right.
Xbox One will be released later this year (no specific date has been announced).
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What do you think of the Xbox One? Will it live up to the hype? Will you be getting it on day one? We need to know! Tell us below!