Microsoft may not have wowed hardcore gamers with its initial Xbox One announcement, but I’m not sure it wanted to. All of the exclusive game titles and advanced graphics capabilities of the Xbox One will most likely be shown off at the E3 show next week; it’s at that event when Microsoft will specifically target the gaming crowd. What Microsoft did accomplish at its initial Xbox One announcement, however, is declare war on every set top box, media streamer, and HTPC on the market.
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To quickly recap, the Xbox One is powered by an 8-Core, semi-custom, x86-compatible SoC made by AMD, with AMD Radeon-class graphics, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and a Blu-ray optical drive. The device essentially runs two operating systems, a Windows 8 derivative and the Xbox OS, seamlessly integrated using a hypervisor that allows for quick task switching and side-by-side operation. And all Xbox One consoles will include a next-gen Kinect sensor too.
One of the most interesting things about the initial Xbox One demo was that the vast majority of the presentation had nothing to do with gaming. Voice and gesture controls were shown for accessing numerous apps and the web. Videos, movies, and live TV were all played back on the device. Applications were snapped to one side of the screen, while another remained playing on the main portion of the screen. And for a large part of the demo, nothing was touched — it was all controlled via voice commands and gestures.
Though the software still isn’t finalized, Microsoft’s Xbox One demonstration showed the device already handling, games, music, movies, the web, live TV, and Skype with aplomb. After seeing the Xbox One in action, I thought it was the kind of device that could easily find its way into the living room and not just the musty man-cave. If using the Xbox One to access all types of multi-media is truly as easy as the demo made it look, even the least tech-savvy folks would have no problem using one. I could easily envision someone like my wife walking in the door, turning on the Xbox One, launching a web browser with her favorite site, and placing a Skype call, all before taking off her coat.
Many of my contacts in the gaming and tech communities reacted negatively to the Xbox One announcement because Microsoft didn’t show enough in-game action, but not me. I already know the games are going to look incredible. The device will offer significant improvement over the performance of the current Xbox 360, with more advanced features, and it will be easier to program for as well. Many game devs were waiting for the next-gen consoles to launch to release their next-gen game engines. The games are going to look amazing — trust me on this one.
It’s the next-gen human-computer interface capabilities that had me intrigued, and once consumers realize they’ll be able to watch videos and movies, browse the web, answer Skype calls, and manage their fantasy leagues without touching a controller, I think many of them will be intrigued, too. The Xbox One’s games will be just a bonus.