Long-awaited Xbox One Makes Its Debut, Microsoft Aims for All-in-One Entertainment Center

Because “Xbox 720” was ultimately kind of a dumb name, Microsoft wisely went with something different for its new console: Xbox One. At Microsoft headquarters today, the Xbox crew debuted Xbox One, showed off its new features, and promised to give us more at E3 next month.

The most impressive feature of the Xbox One, at least at this point, is the enhanced voice and gesture controls it offers. With a simple voice command--”Xbox On”--you can turn on your Xbox and launch into your personal homescreen, which will remember what you were last doing.

Xbox One demo
Showing off Xbox One gesture controls

To get to your TV, simply say, “Xbox, watch TV” and it’s on. With the new Instant Switching feature, you can use voice commands to quickly toggle between the TV, games, Internet, music, and back again--sort of like switching channels with a remote, except you’re switching between inputs and features.

In addition to using your voice to control the system, you can use a variety of physical gestures in the air. In fact, there are several universal gestures, including grab-and-pan and swipe up.

With Snap Mode, Xbox One users enjoy what looks like true multitasking; you can have multiple program up on the same screen, running alongside each other, and you can interact with them all at the same time.

Xbox One

TV watching with Xbox One looks to be a very immersive experience; in addition to multitasking, the Xbox One Guide makes it easy to find something to watch, whether you use voice search to pull up shows, bring up your favorites, or check out what’s trending and go from there.

On the slightly more technical side of things, Xbox One was built with three separate “operating systems”; one is of course the Xbox One architecture, but there’s also a Windows kernel on board as well as underpinnings that allow instant switching, multitasking, and other user experience-heightening features. The system itself will have 8GB of RAM, WiFi Direct, a Blu-ray drive, 64-bit OS, and variable power states, and it’s designed to be silent.

Kinect comes with every Xbox One, and is actually of central importance in making the whole thing work. In fact, Kinect itself has been updated to be faster, read more minute gestures (Microsoft says it can read your heartbeat while you exercise), and support all family members in the household. Speaking of input devices, SmartGlass is now natively supported on the Xbox system.

Xbox One demo

Microsoft keeps talking “cloud” as central to the new Xbox experience, and to that end, it appears as though they’ve invested heavily in infrastructure. Xbox Live is currently powered by 15,000 servers, but soon it will jump to 300,000. That makes it so content can be stored more effectively in the cloud, and every user will have dedicated cloud-based game DVR.

Microsoft also announced (take a deep breath) a partnership with EA to develop more games with a new EA Sports Ignite game engine that taps into human instincts, decision-making, and “living worlds”; 15 exclusive Xbox titles coming from Microsoft, including 8 new franchises; a live action Halo TV series by none other than Steven Spielberg; an exclusive NFL partnership that will offer NFL content on the Xbox with live onscreen fantasy football updates during games; and a preview of the new Call of Duty: Ghosts, which features new worlds and characters.

It may have taken Microsoft 8 years to get around to launching a new console, but it looks as though it was worth the wait. The Xbox One is launching worldwide later this year.