After a long, protracted wait, Microsoft finally took the wrapping off of its next-generation gaming console, the Xbox One, during a special May 21st press event. Microsoft has successfully infiltrated millions of living rooms with their current generation Xbox 360/Kinect bundle, and after their latest event, it seems the new Xbox One is well equipped to become Redmond’s next entertainment Trojan horse.
Seven years have passed since the release of the Xbox 360, and the technological advancements during that period allowed the Xbox One to dwarf its predecessor in terms of features and raw power. The Xbox One boasts an 8-core 64-bit CPU, proprietary GPU, 8 gigabytes of RAM, a Blu-Ray player, and a 500-gigabyte internal hard drive to store games, movies, and apps. By Microsoft’s measurement, the new Xbox One will be about ten times more powerful than the current generation Xbox 360. The Xbox One can also connect to Microsoft’s own servers to give users up to a four-fold increase in performance for internet-connected systems.
The Xbox One is being marketed as an all-in-one entertainment system for gamers, T.V. lovers, and social networking junkies alike. During the presentation, the Xbox One transitioned seamlessly between playing video games, displaying movies and television, and a hosting a very scripted Skype video chat, all while context-sensitive, web 2.0-esque overlays adorned various part of the screen. The majority of the navigation was done via hand-gestures and voice commands directed at the new Kinect 2.0 peripheral perched atop the Xbox One. Everything was sharp and silky smooth, with nary an embarrassing failure or delay.
The redesigned Kinect 2.0 will come bundled with every Xbox One purchase at launch, and it will be an integral part of the Xbox One experience. Higher fidelity and more accurate voice recognition should allow the Kinect 2.0 to map motions more accurately, understand more voice commands, and recognize new hand and body gestures. The Xbox One also takes advantage of Microsoft’s Smart Glass, which in addition to allowing users to control the Xbox One via mobile devices, can automatically beam supplemental information such as scores, stats, and tailor-made second screen experiences to your smart phone or tablet.
During the launch event, Microsoft decided to forgo the usual pitch to hardcore gamers, opting instead to speak to the growing number of users who primarily use their consoles for video services Netflix, Hulu, and Crackle. This unsurprisingly has not resonated well with those in the so-called “core” gaming demographic, who have come to view the Xbox as a game system first, and see features such as video services and social media integration as secondary bonuses. There has been considerable backlash from some in the gaming community, accusing Microsoft of ignoring the fans that made the Xbox brand popular to begin with. Fortunately for Microsoft, their chance for redemption, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is right around the corner.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is where Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo all showcase their latest and greatest games and innovations. Before the unveiling, Microsoft had been the only major console maker yet to release details about their next-gen system. It’s likely that Microsoft used the launch event to introduce the more mainstream features in advance, and will focus more on the gaming capabilities of Xbox One during their presentation at the E3 conference. Prognostication notwithstanding, what was shown was arguably the most impressive and seamless demonstration of an all-in-one entertainment system seen to date. In an era when the number of connected devices in our living rooms is expanding exponentially, it is refreshing to think that someday you may be able to access all your games, music, and television by speaking one simple command: “Xbox on.”