Xbox One: Microsoft Unveils New Console

Next-generation console aims to be the hub for entertainment in the living room.

Microsoft has taken the wraps off of its new toy, the Xbox One.

But don’t call the videogame console just a plaything. Microsoft is positioning the device as the central hub for all forms of entertainment in the livingroom. The problem is, so is Sony with its PlayStation 4, and Nintendo through its Wii U.

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With the trio of rivals competing for the same consumer, the next-generation of consoles hitting the market in the fall are the central players in the “war for the livingroom,” which the games industry is eager to hype as it looks to boost slowing sales as the devices near their 10-year life cycle.

The first Xbox was introduced in 2001, with a slimmer Xbox 360 replacing it in 2005. Altogether, Microsoft has sold 57.8 million Xboxes. It was the best-selling console for the 28th month in a row in April, according to NPD Group.

With its Xbox One, Microsoft now has an even more powerful machine that boasts a larger hard drive, faster processing power and memory for more photorealistic graphics, a live TV tuner, a built-in DVD and Blu-ray player, the integration of Skype video conferencing calls, and the ability to stream games over the web from the cloud.

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An Xbox One guide searches TV through voice command, but also finds shows — live or VOD — that are “trending,” based on what people in the Xbox Live community are watching.

Overall response times to all commands were quick and responsive.

The Xbox 360 already was an entertainment hub in people’s homes, with more owners accessing the console to watch video or play music than games.¬†Console continues to add more partners to offer access to streaming video applications like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, Redbox, HBO Go, Epix, ESPN, MLB.tv, YouTube, CinemaNow and Crackle, among others, and the ability to search for a growing list of content through Bing.

To unveil the new Xbox, Microsoft invited the media to its own living room in Redmond, Wash. Make that the company’s backyard, given that the press event was held inside a massive tent erected on the Microsoft campus in the suburb just outside Seattle.

In hosting the event in its hometown, Microsoft was clearly looking to control the marketing message around the Xbox One. It has done an admirable job so far of preventing most leaks around what the device would look like, feature or even what its name would be. Many game industry analysts had already embraced the name Xbox 720, while the code name Durango had also been floating around the biz.

The Xbox One is clearly Microsoft’s biggest launch since introducing the Kinect in 2010, a motion-sensing accessory that uses gestures and voice commands to control not just games but the Xbox Live interface of apps.

Kinect has been updated in the Xbox One to feature voice commands to even turn on the device. ¬†“Xbox, watch TV,” turned on live TV by command. In a demo, the TV instantly turned on CBS’ “The Price Is Right.”

Microsoft certainly has more to talk about when it comes to its Xbox One and will reveal more details at next month’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, in Los Angeles, Sony and Nintendo will also use E3 to promote their PS4 and Wii U, as well. Tuesday’s press event was live streamed via Xbox Live and on Spike TV.

With this week’s Xbox launch, Microsoft becomes the last of the major console makers to introduce its next-gen device after Sony unveiled the PS4 at a two-hour launch event in February, to replace its seven-year-old PS3. Nintendo began selling the Wii U, with its tablet controller in November.

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