Microsoft's New Xbox One Experience brings Windows 10 onto the console—with Cortana

Windows 10 begins moving to the living room.

new xbox experience recrop home
Credit: Mark Hachman
A tour of the New Xbox One Experience

What do you get when you combine the Xbox One gaming console with Windows 10? What Microsoft calls the New Xbox One Experience, or NXOE. And it’s beginning to roll out to testers right now.

Microsoft representatives were leery about reporters publishing previews of the experience, simply because of bugs and performance issues associated with early code. But I was actually surprised that it seems to work pretty well—it’s a little slower than usual, and my login information to Netflix vanished in the update. Otherwise, however, I haven’t noticed any major bugs.

Unfortunately, the update dropped as I was covering the unveiling of Microsoft’s other devices in New York, so I’ve spent just a few hours with it. But here’s a quick visual tour of what you can expect as the NXOE eventually opens up to a wider group of people.

new xbox experience recrop friends
Credit: Mark Hachman
The sidebar: Friends

Like the older, standard Xbox One interface, the home screen is dominated by a large tile showing what game (or app) you played last. But the left-hand sidebar provides a quick shortcut to where you want to go, from the home screen itself. Just press left and you can see your Friends, form Parties, read your Notifications, and access the Settings.

new xbox experience recrop parties
Credit: Mark Hachman
The sidebar: It's Party time

Sometimes you want to game together with your buddies, but they’re not all in the same room. The Party tab doesn’t necessarily make connecting with remote friends specifically for chat or communal gameplay, but it pushes Parties to more of a central role within the Xbox One experience.

new xbox experience recrop notifications 2
Credit: Mark Hachman
The sidebar: Notifications

Windows 10 introduced a Notifications tab, and the New Xbox One Experience has one as well. Interestingly enough, a notification you receive there (such as an Xbox Achievement) kicks over and also appears on your Windows 10 desktop.

new xbox experience recrop settings
Credit: Mark Hachman
Settings menu

You won’t find too much that’s different in the Settings menu, although it’s nicely organized—and everything’s in one spot.

xbox app windows 10
Credit: Mark Hachman
Xbox App on Windows 10

The Xbox app on Windows 10 puts a lot of information into a small, compact space—great for a computer screen, but not so much for a large television screen. 

new xbox experience Cortana
Credit: Mark Hachman
Hidden feature: Cortana!

Thanks to VentureBeat for highlighting this: If you enter the Settings menu, click up (so that nothing is highlighted), and then press “A” once (or a few times, if necessary), you can turn on Cortana.

There’s obviously some holdover from Windows 10 (you don’t really need ink input, do you, Cortana?) but otherwise it’s the same interface as on Windows 10.

new xbox experience Cortana
Credit: Mark Hachman
Cortana sidebar

The only difference is that Cortana snaps to the right, rather than along the left rail as on your desktop PC. Otherwise, it appears to be the same Cortana interface. I don’t have my Kinect sensor connected at the moment, however, so I can’t be sure speech input works. (It should, though.)

new xbox experience 6
Credit: Mark Hachman
The Community tab

Like the Windows 10 Xbox app, the Community tab within the NXOE is designed to give you the feeling that you’re not just gaming, you’re gaming as part of a social group. Not only is this the place where you can share your own clips and screenshots , but your friends can as well. On the NXOE, they dominate the screen.

new xbox experience 7
Credit: Mark Hachman
OneGuide, apps, and channels

I don’t use my Xbox One to control my TV (we have an old PlayStation 3 that we use as our media streaming box, primarily because my kids have mastered its interface) but the OneGuide portion of the interface is now displayed more prominently. 

You can scroll down and find specific shows. But the “Movies from all apps” feature doesn’t actually show movies from all apps—or at least it didn’t after I re-added my Netflix account. Still, cross-platform search (or the potential of such) is a great feature.

new xbox experience 8
Credit: Mark Hachman
More of the App channels

Of course, the shows displayed in the app channels are subject to whatever content restrictions those apps or media properties place upon them—there’s no guarantee that USA, for example, has every season of House. And, of course, if you watch a movie on a service like Crackle, it comes with ads.

new xbox experience 9
Credit: Mark Hachman
Microsoft Store: Games

In the standard Xbox One interface, there’s a lot of left-and-right scrolling to wade through Microsoft’s Xbox game store. In the NXOE, navigation is more equally proportioned between the horizontal and vertical. The search functions are easy to find, and there’s always a “hero” game which promises to be the next big thing. It’s an element that is also in the conventional Xbox One user interface, too—in the NXOE, it’s just more prominent.

new xbox experience 10
Credit: Mark Hachman
Microsoft Store: More Games

There’s also the same lists of “new releases” and highly-rated games that are found in the older Xbox One interface. Again, however, they’re organized nicely.

new xbox experience 14
Credit: Mark Hachman
My Games

One of the few pages that looks virtually identical to the conventional Xbox interface.

new xbox experience 11
Credit: Mark Hachman
Apps

The apps portion of the Xbox One interface, on both versions, has always felt like a bit of an afterthought to me—in some sense, a service like Netflix competes with Microsoft’s own business of renting and selling movies. Possibly because Microsoft has struck a deal with the NFL to put Surface tablets on the sidelines, in return the NFL app is prominently displayed. 

new xbox experience 12
Credit: Mark Hachman
Microsoft Store: Movies

The “hero” image also works well here, in Microsoft’s movie store. It will be interesting to see whether some of these movie promotions remain on the back page, or will start to compete for space on the homepage—and whether any of them will be “promoted,” as you’re beginning to see on the standard One interface.

new xbox experience 13
Xbox Music Store

You might think that there would be some link to Groove Music, but no. I’m not sure what this means.

All in all, the NXOE looks pretty polished already, and it should steadily improve. What do you think? Is it worth upgrading? Tell us in the comments.