Microsoft unveiled its new game system today and it's back to square one, Xbox One that is.
For literally decades, it's been Microsoft's stated goal to "rule" the living room with some sort of multimedia computer device. That was the big push point again today with the "reveal" of Xbox One, coming by year's end at a price to be determined – likely to be close to $500 given the brain power and inclusion of a fancier Kinect peripheral (stilll not built in ) with every system. While spiffier looking than past models, Xbox One kinda looks like an old school Toshiba VCR, if truth be known.
The most impressive takeaway was not really the games - though previews of the next gen, all new engine powered "Call of Duty - Ghosts" did look and move in a super fluid and naturalistic fashion. Microsoft's saving the big software reveal - including the 15 Xbox One games it's planning for year one - for the E3 show in a couple weeks.
Today, the big message was Xbox One's aim and ability to juggle all your entertainment and communications needs with improved voice and gesture commands and snap speed (verging on artificial) intelligence.
This always-on device will recognize when you sit down in front of it and instantly summon u your personal split screen home page of favorite sites and recent activities. And this smart box will be able to switch between videogames, cable TV, music, internet sites and Skype with the same speed you expect just changing TV channels, but without the need to change the input on your TV!
There's a Blu-ray player built in, too, though no mention was made of the drive – always a big selling advantage for Sony's PlayStation 3. Microsoft also brushed over how the new system won't play older Xbox 360 games.
To be the only box (they hope) you'll want to see or use in the living room, it's likely Xbox One will have to extend relationships already created with the Comcasts, NFLs and HBOs of the world to more fully integrate cable channel reception without the need for an external box.
On the gaming side, there were hints of an even tighter than before relationship between Microsoft and EA, which seems to be developing the 2014 franchises for NFL, NBA, FIFA and UFC games exclusively (or first) for Xbox One. EA let it out of the bag last week that it's given up on Nintendo's Wii U platform.
Microsoft also will tighten NFL ties with a pretty cool split screen fantasy football linkup. As you're watching a live game, your fantasy league rankings will adjust automatically. And with all the massive computing power on board (3 operating systems running on 5 billion transistors, 8 GB RAM and a 500 GB hard drive) you'll also simultaneously be able to razz league competitors with text messages and video calls. And send recordings of your videogame triumphs up to the cloud for sharing with others, via a much expanded Xbox Live service equal in brain power "to all the computers in the world in 1999."
Microsoft's touting of "the beginning of truly intelligent TV" also includes better mashing up of its second screen "smart glass" apps for tablets and smart phones (good luck with that) and in the creation of a "Halo" TV series – involving Stephen Spielberg, no less – that promises a serious "social integration" element. Maybe viewers will get to vote and instantly determine who lives and who dies?