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With the litany of devices attached to the family television — from DVD players to cable boxes to gaming consoles — it was only a matter of time that someone would find a way to cut through the clutter. With Microsoft’s history of technological innovation, the company announced recently that the new Xbox One has been designed hopefully to become the all-in-one answer to home entertainment.
The Xbox One features a custom-built Blue-ray-capable optical drive, HDMI connector (allowing it to connect into your TV), 8-GB memory and Wi-Fi. Enhancing its ease of use is the ability to switch quickly and easily between entertainment sources as well as the device’s ability to recognize gesture and voice control (should also improve the gaming experience, especially for serious gamers).
Fox News reported that Yusuf Mehdi, chief marketing officer for Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, demonstrated the use of voice commands to switch from music to games to television with remarkable ease.
True to its all-in-one design, the Xbox One integrates Skype, thereby increasing social interaction among users. Xbox One software runs not only on the Xbox platform but also with Windows 8. Medhi’s presentation made mention of the SmartGlass technology for smartphones and tablets which works on the Xbox One; however, the presentation skipped past any talk of future apps associated with the new device. The new device does differ from previous models with the introduction of an electronic television guide for use with cable programming.
Now for the Fun Part — the Features
The new Xbox One features Kinect sensors; the updated version is, however, not only more functional and more powerful than its predecessor, but also mandatory for the device to work. This may disappoint some, but Microsoft promises the new and improved version works well in smaller rooms. Beyond that, the Kinect 2.0 recognizes the user’s facial features, movements … even their heartbeat.
Consoles like the Xbox 360 were the ultimate Netflix machine, but the One allows you to watch live TV, as well. A standard cable or satellite package runs about $30 monthly, according to ClearTVBundle.com, and subscriptions like Netflix cost less than $10 monthly. This means that, for less than $50, the Xbox One could prevail as the ultimate media machine.
In fact, with the introduction of the One, users can now exercise voice controls to cause the device to interact with both the Skype interface as well as with live TV via a technology called Snap Mode. It’s pretty clear that the user experience with this new device will be highly advanced; however, it seems that with the new system, used games will eventually be phased out. That is due to the fact that all games will now come with an activation code and must be both installed on the system’s hard drive and registered online. Because each game will now be connected specifically to an individual account, gifting games (as was commonly done with previous Xbox versions) will no longer work.
The Uphill Battle Between Xbox and PlayStation
Xbox One will obviously be offered head-to-head against Sony’s PS4, citing an article from Trusted Reviews. The PS4’s core processor is slightly higher, coming in at 2.0 GHz versus the One’s 1.6 GHz. As previously mentioned, Microsoft has developed the Kinect 2.0 to be a sophisticated controller-free experience with a higher resolution camera over the PS4. Both the One and the PS4 will offer an array of streaming services (like the ever popular Netflix), but the One has stepped it up a notch with the inclusion of HDMI. And while retail prices for both of the devices have not yet been released, experts estimate both will be offered about $400-$500. Some are now speculating that Xbox One will be offered at two different prices; the lower-end option will likely be available for around $300 because of storage capacity.
In short, the ability to browse the web, video chat with friends and to interact on live TV — all at once — is expected to provide such an appeal that other competitors will likely be left in the Xbox One’s virtual dust.
Photo by Flickr user Frederik Hermann