Earlier this week, Microsoft took the wraps off the Xbox One, the successor to the best-selling Xbox 360 console.
The Xbox One is a powerful gaming machine. It has an eight-core processor, 8GB of memory, and it will ship with a new iteration of the Kinect motion-sensing peripheral. Among the launch titles are Forza Motorsport 5 and the highly-anticipated first-person shooter Call of Duty: Ghosts.
But at a time when dedicated console sales are nose-diving, and more people are playing casual games on their smart phones and tablets, the One needs to be more than a gaming machine. It needs to be an all-purpose entertainment machine – something Microsoft clearly understands.
"Xbox One is designed to deliver a whole new generation of blockbuster games, television and entertainment in a powerful, all-in-one device," Microsoft exec Don Mattrick said in a statement yesterday. "Our unique modern architecture brings simplicity to the living room and for the first time ever, the ability to instantly switch across your games and entertainment."
So what kind of box are we talking about, exactly?
Well, for one, using HDMI cables, you can hook the Xbox One up to your cable box, and watch and record live TV through the Xbox OS. "In essence," writes Peter Kafka of All Things D, "Xbox One is acting as a sort of custom remote for your cable box, which will let you change the channel; it is also creating its own programming guide so you can see what’s on TV."
In a nice touch, that programming guide can be controlled with your voice – so you can shout at the box to change the channel or record something or simply power down.
There will also be a customized Skype app on Xbox One, allowing the console to double as a communications device.
Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg is developing an "interactive" Halo TV show which will debut on the Xbox One. And as Tom Cheredar of VentureBeat notes, Microsoft has partnered with the NFL to "integrate sports scores, play-by-play views, socialization, and more into the TV screen as well as making fantasy football leagues more centralized to your experience."
Not bad for a video game machine.
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