Xbox One's HDMI Pass-Through Will Connect To PlayStation 4, PCs and More

This is one of those announcements that's so odd, I'm still trying to figure out if it works out to a positive. I'm fairly certain it does.

So as you likely know, the Xbox One has both HDMI-in and HDMI-out capability. The point of HDMI-in is to allow you to hook up a cable box, with output then running from the Xbox One to your television. As it turns out, however, that's not the only thing the Xbox One can do. Since the HDMI-in port is a standard option, it can accept video input from a PS4 -- which means it can also accept a video stream from a PC. According to Xbox senior director of product management, Albert Panello, "any application can be snapped to a game... this could be the live TV feed, so if you wanted to play Ryse and Killzone (a PS4 exclusive), you could snap that."

This is rather interesting. Keep in mind, snapping a title to the Xbox One doesn't mean that you can actually keep using Xbox One controllers in the game. If you want to snap in a PS4 game, you still need PS4 controllers. If you want to hook a PC into the Xbox One's video output, you still need mouse+keyboard -- though if the Xbox One's controllers are eventually PC compatible (and they're supposed to pick up that functionality in 2014), then you might be able to use the same controller on both platforms without doing much more than flipping a switch.

How much will people use it? That's unclear. I'm not sure how many gamers are rocking multiple devices, or want to run their devices through an Xbox One. Video quality will have to be checked to make sure the signal doesn't degrade (it shouldn't), and this only gets you video input, not total control of the other system. Still, this could be the kind of feature that encourages the Xbox One as a sort-of gaming management console. It's unfortunate that the system lacks HTPC capability -- but the ability to interface with an HTPC directly could be a nice benefit for someone who wants a box that's more powerful than your typical Roku and is also an Xbox One fan. As Kotaku points out, the Xbox One could also be used for capturing video streams off the PS4 using devices that the Sony console won't initially support. Connect the PS4 to the Xbox One, then run an Elgato between the Xbox One and television, and voila! Video stream captured.

Better marketing would have helped prevent things like this

These are the sorts of simplifying features and capabilities the company should have led with at launch, as opposed to emphasizing the console's ability to run a video pass-through signal through to a television like pretty much every other console, ever. The ability to pin television to one side of the screen while runnning web searches is the sort of capability that Google and Intel were talking up with Google TV. It wasn't exciting. And on a personal note, when I showed it to my significant other, her immediate response was: "No, never, that's why you own a phone." While no one woudl expect Microsoft to lead off with "Use our new tech with our competitor's products!" this feature could've been showcased running alongside an Xbox 360.