Microsoft has unveiled the new Xbox, and it’s called Xbox One. It’s Microsoft’s first new console in more than seven years. Yes, we’ve had many expectations for this console, especially since Sony and Nintendo have already taken their first steps in the next-gen landscape. Here’s what you need to know that was announced at Microsoft’s event in Redmond, Wash.
The original Xbox debuted in the fall of 2005, which feels like a million years ago…even if it’s only seven and a half. It’s high time for a new console, even if some tech pundits are questioning the value of gaming hardware platforms in the current age.
The Xbox One is large, sleek, black, and looks like a piece of AV equipment. The controller and Kinect unit are redesigned, too. Xbox promises that this is a better-connected way of linking TV, games, and entertainment in one unit — something the Xbox 360 already does, but will do more via commands like “Xbox, on.”
Microsoft promises that you’re “going to have a relationship with your TV.” The next Xbox tries to take on a living room that has become “too complex,” and make a system that knits games, TV, and entertainment.
So, how will that happen?
There are universal gestures such as grab and pan and swipe up: watching live TV will involve maximizing and minimizing the screen in a top corner. Live TV will be part of the Xbox One experience, via HDMI-in. Yes, cable TV looks like part of the package.
Under the hood, details so far include: an eight-core processor, 8GB of RAM, Blu-ray, USB 3, HDMI in/out, and a 500GB hard drive. Besides all of this, Microsoft is promising a new operating system fusing Xbox and Windows.
Xbox One architecture has “three operating systems in one”: Xbox, a kernel of Windows (perhaps like Windows RT), and a multitasking interface. The idea seems to be that this console will be a multitasker at heart.
A new Kinect comes with the Xbox One, with improved accuracy. There’s a 1080p camera, Skype connectivity, and understanding of rotational movement in a structure-like skeleton. Microsoft even claims the new Kinect can read your heartbeat. It can also recognize your controller, not just your hands — suggesting use cases that sound a little like the PlayStation Move’s wand.
The Xbox controller’s gotten a revamp with an integrated battery, improved ergonomics, a better D-pad, and improved-response triggers. It looks similar but has gotten a bunch of gamer-oriented tweaks.
The tablet-based SmartGlass experience will be around on Xbox One, and will work as before with a variety of phones and tablets.
Built on the existing service and usernames, the new Xbox Live promises 300,000 servers for Xbox One, a whopping number. Matchmaking services will work while doing other tasks like watching movies or Web-browsing, and bigger, faster-connecting matches are promised, too.
Microsoft plans eight new franchises for the Xbox One in the first year, a hopeful sign for a platform that’s become too sequel-dependent. Of course, Forza 5 was shown off, but a new game called Quantum Break from the developers of Alan Wake looks like the sort of game we’re more used to seeing from PlayStation: a big-studio design and cinematic feel.
TV on Xbox
“Xbox is going to be the next water cooler.” That was said during the Xbox event to discuss the Xbox One’s role as a social TV platform. To that end, it sounds like Microsoft is developing TV shows and original programming for the Xbox One, making a greater leap into Netflix-like original programming. Steven Spielberg announced a new Halo TV series, and the NFL demonstrated some level of interaction with fantasy stats and Skyping with NFL broadcasts.
The Xbox One will be available “later this year,” so that means 2013 after all. Price and a specific date will have to wait…after all, E3 is just weeks away.
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