I’m as disappointed as a lot of people who might have expected more gameplay footage at Microsoft’s unveiling of the Xbox One. That said, I fully expected this conference to be more about entertainment in general than just video games. One feature in particular that interests me is something that none of my current media devices really do well.
Instant app switching I think was one of the first features of the Xbox One that was leaked many months ago, and in my opinion looks like the most unique useful feature of the console. It leverages the system’s main strength over its cheaper competition, and if done right could actually contribute something to people’s lives.
Having multiple apps running at the same time has in my opinion been the crux of Windows for the last 20 years and has remained the main advantage of desktop computing over mobile computing. I can quickly pause and switch apps on my iPad but it’s still a fairly cumbersome process — nothing like just minimizing programs on my taskbar. That’s the problem: no mobile device has the equivalent of a taskbar, or anything that works just as well. They generally want you to be using one app at a time.
If I can stream a video on the Xbox One, and then instantly flip over to the web browser, and then have a chat up at the same time, that could instantly give the machine an advantage over set-top-boxes and Smart TVs. Instant save states in my game would make the deal even sweeter.
When it comes to Kinect I’ve really only been down on the cheap casual games that people tried to sell for it. I’ve always acknowledged its potential uses for the overarching OS like voice commands and the central interface of the console. I think turning Kinect into what is basically Microsoft’s Siri in your living room is a sound idea, though we’ll see if the whole hand-in-the-air interface works.
On my last update I speculated that as an all-in-one media box, what Microsoft today revealed as the Xbox One would need a unique crux to make it seem more valuable than other all-in-one media boxes that cost a fraction of what its price will probably be. It needs to put its superior horsepower to some use that is actually palpable to general consumers, similar to how Apple justifies expensive iPhones with Siri. It seems that instant app switching and the upgraded Kinect are two of those cruxes. One is a technology unique to Microsoft, and the other is a feature that requires horsepower you won’t find in an Apple TV or Smart TV. If I were Microsoft and I wanted to make a commercial selling the Xbox One to general audiences, it would be about those features.
If all that stuff comes together, Microsoft in the best case scenario could have living room media box that actually makes accessing entertainment easier and quicker for mainstream consumers. I don’t think that’s going to hurt its ability to become a great video game platform with great games. We’ll see about that with E3 less than a month away.
- The main thing I’m worried about with the Xbox One’s second hand policy is rentals. Most of the console games I’ve played throughout this generation were rentals. If I bought an Xbox One I’d probably just play fewer games on it because of this.
- Dead Space and Dead Space 2 are $5 each today on Steam: http://t.co/0tV9okajYF
- BGN Podcast 5/20/13 Black Cosplayers http://flip.it/NtJIs