• All things about Microsoft’s new Xbox One game console you should know

    Posted on May 22nd, 2013 David Brooks | 85 comments

    As rumored, we all know that Microsoft would release its new Xbox this year. But what we don’t know is what the next Xbox would be called and what it would bring to us. There’re rumors that the next Xbox would be called Xbox 720 with amazing specs. Now, the rumors about the next-generation of Microsoft Xbox have finally come into an end. 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. Today, let’s take a look at what the Xbox One is, in various aspects like design, specs, final release date, etc.

    Microsoft Xbox One

    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.

    Design
    The Xbox One is large, sleek, and black, and looks like a piece of AV equipment. The controller and Kinect unit are redesigned, too: the Kinect and Xbox One, in particular, sport sharp-angled, glossy-black boxy looks. As a set, the Xbox One really does feel like some elaborate piece of home theater gear…and considering its mission to knit entertainment together into a modern all-in-one package, that’s clearly intentional. It also looks awfully big, compared with current-gen consoles and how they’ve slimmed down.

    The name “Xbox One” suggests a reboot, a fresh start. Maybe from this day forward, Microsoft’s connected living-room PC strategies will spring from the Xbox One. Or, it’ll just a be a very good gaming console.

    Home entertainment
    Microsoft 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.” As was said during the initial presser, you’re “going to have a relationship with your TV.” The elevator pitch: 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.

    Microsoft Xbox One

    But we haven’t seen, other than some picture-in-picture overlays, how exactly TV is piped in and more deeply interacted with…and who the partners are. Comcast was mentioned, but what other companies will contribute to letting the Xbox One hook in and become a true TV accessory? That was the challenge that daunted Google TV and the Wii U. Right now, it doesn’t look like the Xbox One replaces your cable box or your DVR, even though it’s large enough to be both.

    The Xbox One does knit together new voice commands to do some PC-like stuff: you can order movie tickets, for instance, engage in Skype, or pull up fantasy sports stats while watching a game. The conversational, Siri-meets-Google Now-like voice commands hopefully will have clear menu representation on the console, as otherwise it could get confusing.

    “It’s an all-in-one entertainment console” is a pitch we’ve heard before, dating back to the PlayStation 3 and before that — really, going back all the way to the 3DO. It hasn’t always worked, but the Xbox One is better positioned because the Xbox 360′s already pretty successful at being an excellent streaming-video device.

    Specs
    Under the hood, details so far include an eight-core processor and graphics made by AMD, 8GB of RAM, Blu-ray, USB 3.0, 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. Check out a head-to-head comparison with the PlayStation 4 specs known so far, however, and you can see that the distance between Sony and Microsoft, in terms of hardware, will be shorter than ever.

    Microsoft Xbox One

    New Kinect
    A new Kinect comes with the Xbox One, complete with improved accuracy. It has a 1080p camera, Skype connectivity, and understanding of rotational movement in a structure like a skeleton. Microsoft even claims the new Kinect can read your heartbeat. It can also recognize your controller, not just your hands — suggesting uses that sound a little like the ones for PlayStation Move’s wand.

    New controller
    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.

    SmartGlass
    The tablet-based SmartGlass experience will center on Xbox One, and will work as before with a variety of phones and tablets. Baked-in Wi-Fi Direct on the Xbox One will allow Bluetooth-like direct communication between external devices, which could come in handy for other future peripherals, too. Second screens will be a major method of interacting with the Xbox One, but details were scarce at the Xbox event — how will it be better than, and more profound than, SmartGlass as it currently exists?

    Microsoft Xbox One

    Xbox Live
    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 you’re doing other tasks like watching movies or Web browsing, and bigger, more quickly connecting matches are promised, too. Microsoft has discussed some cloud services on the Xbox One that seem promising: user-based cloud game saves, uploaded game recording, and even the potential for cloud-processing-enhanced games. How that will play out isn’t clear.

    Games<
    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, with a big-studio design and cinematic feel. But there is some bad news: like the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One isn’t backward-compatible with Xbox 360 games. For more, read what we know about Xbox One’s games so far.

    TV on Xbox
    “Xbox is going to be the next water cooler.” That was said during the event to suggest 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 TV series based on Halo, and the NFL demonstrated some level of interaction with fantasy stats and Skyping with NFL broadcasts.

    Availability
    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. In short, there are still several things about the Xbox One we don’t know…and would like to.

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