Xbox One, Microsoft’s Next-Generation… Something?

Earlier today Microsoft held a well-publicized press conference to announce the next-generation Xbox.  Contrary to prior rumors, the machine will nor be xalled Xbox 720 or Xbox Infinity.  The name of Microsoft’s next-generation game console is Xbox One.  Microsoft explained that they chose the name because it’s the only device we’ll need for all our entertainment needs.

The hardware itself is vastly different from the Xbox 360, and has a lot in common with Sony’s already-announced Playstation 4.  Microsoft has discarded IBM’s Power PC CPU architecture altogether, and chosen an AMD “Jaguar” eight-core APU (i,e, CPU and GPU in  a single die) running at 1.6 GHZ.  The system will have 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive.  Oy will have a Blu Ray drive, as well as 802.11n wifi, HDMI in/out and UDB 3.0.  Games will installed to the console’s hard drive, and will be tied to a single player’s Xbox Live account.  In order for a different user to play the game in  a different Xbox One console, he/she must pay Microsoft an activation fee, unless the prior user has removed the game from his/her account.  The Xbox One is not backwards-compatible with Xbox 360 games, since their internal architectures are so radically different.  Frankly, iImaget would be more feasible for the machine to run games made for the original Xbox, which was also based on an x86 architecture.

The controller for the Xbox One has been subtly changed… it features a slimmer battery pack, smaller handles, a d-pad instead of s disc, improved rumble functionality, and reduced lag between input and on-screen action.

 

With the Xbox One Microsoft is introducing version 2.0 of its Kinect sensor.  It will be included with every Xbox One console, and it has to be connected at all times for the console to work.  Kinect 2.0 has a 1080p camera, enganced field of view, and improved detection.  It will be able to track players, even in complete darkness.

The new Xbox Live service for the new console relies on Kinect 2.0 for a lot of its functionality.  It recognized the user and automatically signs him/her in.  You can navigate the menus and various console functions using voice commands and gestures.  The Xbox One has the ability to work with the user’s cable box and TV to simplify and enhance the TV viewing experience.  At the press conference, Microsoft personnel demoed the console’s multi-tasking by simultaneously watching a movie and opening Internet Explorer to do a search.  They also showed the Xbox One’s Skype integration and channel guide, and its ability to seamlessly switch between a game, live TV and IPTV.  The new console achieves this by simultaneously running an Xbox OS and a Windows 8 kernel, and switching between both as needed.

I watched Microsoft’s press conference from beginning to end, commenting about it with some Google+ friends.  I’ve had some time to think about what I saw and heard, so this is what I think:  I’m not happy about Microsoft’s message, or lack of one.  Microsoft execs kept referring to the Xbox One as a media device, not a games console, and indeed, it looks very much like a cable/satellite TV DVR box.  The presentation focused more on the media aspects of the Xbox One, the partnerships Microsoft has created to support said aspects, and celebrity endorsements by the likes of Steven Spielberg than actual gaming, games development, or games industry people.  Cliffy B or Peter Moore were nowhere to be found.  The only games shown were in trailer form, with no live gameplay at all.  Will it be able to share gameplay pictures and videos?  We don’t know… that functionality was not discussed or shown.  Granted, Microsoft said that they will talk more about games at E3, but still… this was their chance to make a first impression with gamers, and judging from the angry posts and comments I’ve seen today, from Twitter to Facebook to G+, I don’t think they did.