Microsoft introduced its third-generation Xbox game console Tuesday, touting a device it claims will revolutionize the experience of using your television. Eight years after the launch of the Xbox 360, which is currently the best-selling games machine in the U.S., Microsoft finds itself the last of the three big game-makers to show off new hardware. The device is due out later this year. No price was announced. Here’s a closer look.
First, the name
There had been much speculation about what Microsoft would actually name the new device. Xbox 3? Xbox 720? In the end, the company went for the simple Xbox One.
Unlike Sony, which did not reveal the final design of its PlayStation 4 when it was announced earlier this year, Microsoft began its presentation by showing off the look of the Xbox One. The company unveiled a sleek, black box packing 8GB of Ram, WiFi Direct, a Blu-Ray drive, USB 3.0 ports, and a 500GB hard drive. The device runs three operating systems in one, the Xbox OS, a version of Windows, and a layer connecting the two.
A new Kinect full-body motion scanner was shown off, featuring a higher-resolution camera capturing images at 1080p. The companion device, which executives called “rocket science-level stuff,” can understand a user’s balance, energy of motion, and even heart rate. The Kinect also allows the Xbox to be controlled via voice commands.
Controller & Smartglass
The Xbox One’s new controller looks a lot like the old one, but Microsoft says it has made some 40 design tweaks. The device’s triggers, for example, can deliver feedback to users during game play. Smartglass, Microsoft’s companion app for Windows, Android, and iOS, will also be available to control the system. The company said Smartglass has already been downloaded 10 million times.
A so-called Snap Mode allows users to run multiple programs at the same time. One demonstration showed a user watching Star Trek the movie while, at the same time, using Internet Explorer to look up information about its sequel. Microsoft also showed a user answering a Skype call while watching a film. While watching live sports, saying “Xbox show fantasy” brought up real-time stats from a fantasy basketball league.
In the cloud
Microsoft’s Xbox Live service was launched in 2002, powered by some 500 servers. The upcoming version of the service, will run on 300,000 servers, according to the company. That’s more than the entire world’s computing power in 1999, Microsoft boasted during the conference. All those servers will be employed, for instance, to record video of game play and store game saves
The Xbox One Guide is an interactive TV directory that is intended to help users find, discover and watch television. Microsoft showed off navigating the guide using voice commands, saying things such as “Watch CBS.”
Electronic Arts was a part of the presentation, boasting of a coming “special relationship” with Microsoft. The games publisher showed off some of its sports titles including Fifa 14 and UFC 14. Other games demonstrated included Forza, Quantum Break, and a new Call of Duty. Microsoft Studios is committed to releasing 15 new games for the console.
Saying “Xbox watch TV” instantly switches to a live TV broadcast. Users can switch instantly between different applications, telling the Xbox to switching between live TV, games, music, or movies. Gestures, like swiping up or grabbing and panning, control the interface.