Saturday, May 25, 2013

In the future, an Xbox may replace your PC

I am not a gamer and I have never really been tempted to pick up a console till date. The latest Xbox One from Microsoft may cause me to change my mind though. Touted as a single device to meet all entertainment needs, the Xbox One is much more  than a gaming console. It is Microsoft's attempt to colonise the living room, while Windows Phone struggles to take off, the Surface Pro tablet flops and PC sales continue to slide in double digits globally. The Xbox One could be Microsoft's real centre of dominance in the Post PC Era. Here are some reasons why:

1. Conquest of the TV screen

First of all, Microsoft positions the device as a 'new generation TV and movie system'. It adds voice and gesture support. It will login based on your voice and you can order it to switch to the TV. You can even tell it 'watch CBS' and it will switch on the channel for you. It supports multi-tasking - while watching a movie, you can bring up a side web panel and browse the web. Microsoft aims to partner with NFL for live broadcasts and interactive experiences like split screen live chats. They even have an ambition to integrate gaming with live TV - Steven Spielberg will produce a live action series based on the blockbuster game Halo, exclusively for consumption on Xbox One. 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect is how the Xbox will create a 'social' TV experience. The console has a 'trending' page which lets you see what your friends are watching online and you can talk to them via Skype on your TV, even while you are watching it.

Conquest of the TV screen is currently the holy grail of every major corporation - Apple, Google,  and Amazon are all trying to achieve it. Mobile devices may have eaten into PC sales, but the TV is going nowhere for a long time. Hence it is the next frontier of dominance. As traditional media corporations and business models struggle to adapt to the new internet age, it's not surprising that the tech companies should leap in to take advantage. 

2. It may even run Window 8 Apps

In an era of fragmentation, software integration across devices, and within a platform, can become a valuable asset for a company. To put that in simple language, if your Surface tablet can run the same programs that you run on your Windows PC, and your Xbox can run Office, then you as a consumer would be tempted to invest in the range of Microsoft devices.

Microsoft would obviously aspire for this cross-device platform loyalty, which only Apple has been able to command till date. And the Xbox One is part of the game plan. Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley reports that the XBox shares a Win 8 Core with other MS devices, which will allow it to run customised versions of Windows 8 apps. It is possible that Skype, social media, Netflix type of apps may find their way to the Xbox. In any case, a common developer platform will encourage developers to port their apps across.

3. Enhanced motion sensing for greater useability

Along with the xBox, Microsoft will debut a re-designed Kinect motion sensor. It  can detect subtle gestures of hands or fingers, and it can even 'watch' your heartbeat in exercise. It can capture upto 6 faces in the room. The applications for such a technology are mind boggling and transcend gaming. Imagine Reality TV centred around people's own drawing rooms!

Sony and Nintendo have already dropped behind MS in the console game and with the new launch, they will have to scramble to keep up. The Xbox One might actually cross the chasm that separates hard core gamers from mainstream users like me. It might be the next PC for Microsoft. Time alone will tell.

Sources : Slashdot, ZDNet, BGR