Fans of streaming media and video games alike, we've got news for you! Microsoft has just revealed the next-gen follow-up to their Xbox 360: the Xbox One. Building off some of the most popular and successful features of the former version, One actually promises to be a lot more inclusive to non-gamers than other next-gen competitors like Sony's PS4 and Nintendo's WiiU. In fact, Microsoft is fond of saying that over half of the time spent on its consoles aren't spent gaming, but actually consuming streaming media, which means watching your favorite shows via a console just got a whole lot easier.
Amidst the usual claims of increased graphics and sound quality, the biggest news is that the Xbox One will be playing exceptionally nice with the rest of your entertainment center. Early in today's presentation, we learned of a new feature called Snap Mode, which allows for seamless multitasking between games, movies, and other features. The presenter was watching the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie in gorgeous HD, but with a simple command, he brought up a sidebar running Windows Explorer (we know, we know — but Xbox One might actually spell survival for the ol' browser!). The presenter then searched for the Star Trek sequel, pulled up a trailer and watched it, all while the original flick was still playing right along beside it. Truly, an intelligent picture-in-picture mode.
Sports fans have a lot to be excited about, too, particularly if they run their Fantasy Sports leagues through ESPN's on-site tool sets. The demonstrator pulled up a basketball game as if he was watching it live on TV, and we saw as his ESPN Fantasy League players' stats were updated in real time. This feature really seems to break down the line between in-game avatar and on-screen athlete.
Photo: Courtesy of Xbox
Xbox One's most clever non-gamer feature might be the way it incorporates your existing cable TV account into what was once known as the "shooter-box 360." A Tivo-style Xbox TV Guide allows users to search through all the programming available on a cable account, and seamlessly switch between playing a game and watching TV. This may be Microsoft's greatest trick: One comes equipped with the next evolution of the Microsoft Kinect — a fully-featured camera and microphone sensor that basically turns your whole body into a controller — which may mean never searching for a remote again.
Using a simple set of motion and voice commands, Xbox One will allow you to control your TV set by merely using Minority Report-style movements. Finally, shouting at your TV might actually accomplish something! Want to switch channels? Just hop from Bravo to CNN by saying its name out loud. Or, bring back that Internet Explorer sidebar and do a little sleuthing on that super-cute what's-his-face from that one show.
Aside from video games and and a totally connected console, Microsoft has made programming for its product much easier, which means companies might roll out a bevy of apps. It should be noted, of course, that prices haven't been released, but we'd guess it'll include subsidized options based on Xbox Live — with prices dropping as subscriptions to the service increase.
Xbox One might finally bring everyone and everything in your living room together in peace, and is turning out to be one of the smartest and fastest cable boxes on the market. (Sorry, Google TV.) One love, indeed.
Photo: Courtesy of Xbox