Short, but sweet! Microsoft did what they needed to do today. They showed the system, kept the spec talk to a minimum and showed what you can expect when you upgrade to the new system. In short, it’s everything they do well now, done better. Here is a recap:
The Reveal: Don Mattrick started off the show with a “Previously On” type video showing past accomplishments within the Xbox division, followed immediately by the reveal of the system. They took peoples’ biggest problem with the Sony announcement and delivered an actual system, beautifully styled and elegant. The system and the separate, but included, Kinect camera have a blend of black matte and gloss finishes and a blocky, industrial design. The controller design remains largely the same as the existing 360 controller, which is no surprise, as it is considered by many to be the best controller ever made.
The Kinect showcase: Simply saying the phrase “Xbox on” will turn on your system, your display and associated components to take you directly into your personal dashboard. The Xbox One will recognize each users’ voice and deliver their content, from games, to live TV, to music and more. This is mostly an expected evolution of the current technology, but I am very curious about how it will turn on my television and amp through voice control. Hopefully they will talk more about this at E3, as this won’t be that easy of a promise to keep. Motion control has been similarly upgraded. The camera was very responsive to both commands and gestures, with none of the latency that can annoy current users. There was also a quick mention of Kinect being able to read your heart rate during exercise. Interesting…
The Dashboard: This seems to have gotten the lion’s share of the improvements, with app multi-tasking and lightning fast switching. You can bring up a secondary app in a side bar that occupies roughly 1/5 of the screen. Examples shown were Explorer and Skype each brought up while a movie or live TV were taking up the main area. They also showed off something that will be very interesting to fantasy sports fans, where you will get pop up updates to your fantasy scores during live games, keeping you updated without having to check a secondary device. The system has an integrated guide for live TV that keeps track of your favorites and shows you what is trending up to the minute within the Xbox Live community.
The Hardware and Architecture: I don’t suppose I need to write much about the hardware specs. The slide I included below pretty well lets you know what’s what. The news here is that the Xbox One is running three separate operating systems that work in concert to provide the impressive response and switching between applications that was demonstrated during the show. One operating system is dedicated to gaming, one is a Windows kernal and the third acts as a translating and coordinating system for a fast, smooth and seemingly irritation-free experience. The cloud and gaming servers are also getting supercharged, both in functionality and number, to provide such user benefits as increased number of players in games, persistent world gaming and game DVR with editing and sharing.
The Exclusives and Partnerships: Microsoft Studios is currently working on or publishing 15 exclusives, including 8 new IP’s, including Remedy’s Quantum Break and their own Forza Motorsport 5. There are also extensions of existing exclusivity deals with Call of Duty that puts DLC out first on Xbox for a limited time.
The Xbox Entertainment Studios has a Halo television series being produced by Stephen Spielberg that will be a flagship title for their scripted offerings. The NFL also signed deals with Microsoft to offer special content in the form of fantasy football integration and other interactive content. There seems to be a similar deal with ESPN and UFC that would be a natural progression from what we see on the current system with their respective apps.
The Wrapup: What can I really say here? It looks great. I expected it to look great. Will it be a day one purchase for me? That is hard to say. I mostly use my existing 360 to stream Netflix and other shows through my home network. Sure, it would be nice to do that with no delays, but that alone probably wouldn’t justify the expenditure. There is much to learn before the launch this fall, so it’s entirely possible that they will win me over before then!