Yesterday, Microsoft finally demo’d their new “game center,” The Xbox One. It comes complete with HDMI Pass-thru for cable and satellite; Blu-ray player for HD movies, a trending content section of videos your friends are watching; capacity to Skype while watching TV, movies, and videos; tons of memory to store all your movies, TV shows, and music; and slick voice/gesture controls to navigate through your movies and TV shows without the remote… All in all, an amazing way to experience all of your favorite… games, err… videos, movies, and TV.
That’s right, Microsoft recognized that people spend more total time watching video than playing games on their current box and designed Xbox One to cater directly to this habit. The result is a full on “entertainment center.” Sure, you can play games on it too, but that’s not the point.
From its industrial design - shaped like a cable box - to its UX - the ability to “pin” favorite shows to your home screen - this is a big move by Microsoft to own the digital hearth of the modern home… that means, going beyond hard-core gamers and making the Xbox One all about TV and entertainment.
Don’t believe me? Just watch the highlights of the keynote.
Clearly, Microsoft’s commander’s intent is to own the digital living room. As everyone in the space knows, it’s an all-out war for your TV between the likes of Samsung, Google, Amazon, Roku, Boxee, the cable operators, and oh yeah, that fruit company.
But this update by Microsoft isn’t as revolutionary as it seems. Yes, the tech itself is a step forward and the social integrations will be interesting, but it’s not that disruptive to the actual video industry. It still requires a cable subscription and the VOD experience just isn’t there. Really, it’s evolutionary… an upgrade to their tech with (classically) lots of features to fill out the tech specs on the back of the box.
The real win in this space will be a disruptive move for consumers on their cable subscription AND/OR a robust app ecosystem that allows smart, creative developers to build the next generation experiences for these amazing devices. Look no further than the iOS developer ecosystem to see what I mean.
At the end of the day, I’m still excited about the Xbox One. I’m not a gamer, but any move to make my TV more powerful, more alive, and (ironically) more human,** is a good one in my mind. While it’s still lacking the developer ecosystem I’d like to see, it’s another step in the right direction of making TV suck less.
That being said, I am still betting on Apple to open up an app ecosystem - whether it’s on their current device or on a giant 60 inch screen - and when they do, it’s going to be awesome.
What do you think?
** Yes. Voice navigation > crappy remote control on scale of humanness and Skype integration will be interesting for sure.