Microsoft has revealed its new XBOX system, called XBOX ONE. It's as important as a living room media hub as it is for playing games. And as such, this might be how we all consume content in the very near future. K. Stewart reports
Xbox One is a system designed to harmonise and unify the living room experience. An all-in-one system drawing together movies, TV, music, internet, Skype video chat and gaming with voice and gesture control driving truly lightning fast transitions - from movie playback to TV to internet in an eye-blink. After two previous consoles which went all-out to establish Microsoft as the home for hard core gamers, the console of choice for the ultimate in online fragging, this third iteration circled back to the multimedia console everyone expected of Microsoft before Halo.
Microsoft clearly feels confident enough of its gaming credentials 13 years after Xbox 1 to spend the first 15 minutes of a short, tightly choreographed reveal demonstrating not games but instead a seamless blending together of your home entertainment channels. Turn it on by simply saying 'xbox on', swipe through entertainment channels with a wave of your hands, 'grab' a screen to return home.
While Sony talked about, but dropped a HDMI input for PS3, Xbox One will definitely ship with this port (in the US) as it's intrinsic to the Xbox One concept of simplifying your living room experience with its new, upgraded, all-seeing Kinect motion detection eye. In their long march from the desktop to the living room, here was Microsoft's vision of the future of (smart) TV.
The new Xbox will simultaneously run three OS; Host OS which boots the machine and launches Shared Partition (for apps like Skype, Netflix etc.) and Exclusive (games). In one demonstration, Don Mattrick showed how Windows 8's snap mode has come to Xbox, so that you might be watching Star Trek (2009) and split the screen to pull through Internet Explorer and browse showing times for its sequel at the cinema while the movie kept playing. This truly has the potential to revolutionise familial remote control battles to new levels of exasperation, but if other family members aren't, actually, watching TV then it looks a fun feature to play with.
In a similar vein, Microsoft has invested in a partnership with the NFL to make watching American football more interactive, with exclusive content designed for the system. Will the Premier League follow? Let's see launch day sales. Another reflection of the home entertainment vision was a unveiled via a video clip with Steven Spielberg announcing a live action Halo TV series. As we didn't get to see anything of this other than a logo, how this will turn out - Terra Nova 2 with Space Marines? - is hard to judge. Netflix made a big impact by spending over a $100 million on its first House of Cards season. Is Microsoft's ambition at that level? Or was the Game Of Thrones reference just for MS chutzpah?