The Xbox One: the services, the hardware, the limited details

The Xbox One: the services, the hardware, the limited details

Microsoft unveiled their latest Xbox console, Xbox One, in a highly publicized press event in Redmond, Washington today. The new console will focus on creating an all-in-one living room device that will focus on bringing all types of content into one box.

The new features

The first person to take the stage at the conference was Yusuf Mehdi, senior Vice President at Microsoft. In a jam packed 15 minutes on stage, Mehdi showed off a number of new capabilities of Xbox One including Skype HD group calling, system-wide voice control features, and the instant switching ability. Mehdi showed the ability of the system to switch between programs, apps, and inputs (televison or console) simply by saying phrases like “Xbox watch TV” and “go to music.” The aim is to make switching between modes and features as quick and easy as changing the channel on a normal television.

In that same vein, Mehdi showed a new feature called Snap Mode. In the demonstration, Mehdi was able to pull up different apps to occupy a third of the screen while still running the main program on the bulk of the screen. For example, while watching a movie, the phrase “Xbox, snap Internet Explorer, pulls up a web browser on the right hand side of the screen.

Snap Mode is also able to enhance live television. Mehdi demonstrated how fantasy sports leagues could be integrated with live television with Snap Mode to show real-time updates to fantasy stats on the same screen.

Television will play a large role in Xbox One and several new features were shown off that highlight that point, including a new TV guide service that is navigable by voice and tailored to your local market.

The tech

After Mehdi's presentation, Marc Whitten of Microsoft took the stage to talk about the details of the system's hardware. According to Whitten, the system was designed to be a future-proofed system that was integrated with cloud computing to store games, saves, and videos.

Microsoft is making further investments in bolstering Xbox Live as they announced that Xbox One's version of Xbox Live will run on over 300,000 servers worldwide, which the current Xbox 360 version runs on 15,000.

Kinect will also be getting a big upgrade as it's now outfitted with a 1080p camera capable of 30 FPS. Whitten said that the system is now capable of understanding human movements at a much more intricate level, including the simple twist of a wrist or shoulder, as well as the force behind a punch.

We also got some details about the new controller as well, which they're saying includes over 40 innovations. Most of those alleged innovations were not discussed, but the new controller does look quite a bit different. The new piece has the Xbox button much higher up and a newly designed d-pad.

Connecting all of Xbox One's myriad systems together will be a new custom architecture that Whitten said is made of three operating systems all working together. The first is the “kernel” of Windows, another that is purely for gaming, and a third that works to facilitate multitasking and instant switching between programs.

Finally, we also got some details about what's actually inside the console, although most details were not discussed. Xbox One will include USB 3.0 slots, a Blu-Ray drive, and native 64-bit architecture.

“AMD is very excited to be working with Microsoft on their next-generation Xbox One. The Microsoft Xbox One leverages a single-chip, semi-custom AMD APU, with custom components co-developed with Microsoft designed to enable unique attributes of the system Microsoft is bringing to market,” said Saeid Moshkelani of AMD in a statement provided by Microsoft public relations representatives. 

Whitten also teased some details about changes to the way achievements will work, but wasn't very forthcoming as he said they will become dynamic and tell your “personal story.”

Halo TV series

Perhaps the biggest announcement of the entire reveal was actually not about video games. Rather, that came in the form of a brand new live action Halo television show that is being produced via a partnership between 343 Industries and cinema legend Steven Spielberg. We don't yet know the details of the show, or what the collaboration will entail.

From there Microsoft reached the finale of the program: the debut of Call of Duty: Ghosts by Activision which Ben dug into extensively in his report. And yes, you will still be paying for Xbox Live.

Microsoft says we should expect to learn more at Microsoft's E3 press conference on June 10. We'll continue to cover the system from the press event in Redmond, and more details are coming.