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Confirmed: The Xbox One will gain TV DVR functionality starting in 2016

XBox One
DVR functionality is coming to your Xbox One! But is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Much to the chagrin of the hardcore gaming community, Microsoft heavily emphasized the Xbox One’s television integration in its late 2013 launch. Sales suffered sharply as a result of that and other missteps, but the console’s prospects are finally looking up: This quarter, the Xbox One began to close the sales gap behind Sony’s blockbuster PlayStation 4. That’s thanks to a major shift in priorities — in monthly firmware updates,  TV and movie features have largely played second fiddle to gaming improvements — but with crises mitigated, the folks in Redmond are pivoting back toward the media side of things.

Updated on 08-04-2015 by Kyle Wiggers: Added details from Microsoft’s Gamescom press conference.

At an event today at Gamescom in Germany, Microsoft officially announced TV DVR functionality for the Xbox One. So long as you have the requisite hardware — a Hauppauge Digital TV Tuner (or Xbox One Digital TV Tuner in Europe and Australia) and an external hard drive — you’ll be able to record live over-the-air television broadcasts even while you’re playing a game or watching other videos.

Microsoft says you can schedule recordings from the SmartGlass app for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. The console will automatically wake up to record bookmarked shows and movies so long as it’s in Instant-On mode, and you’ll be able to stream those recordings to the aforementioned apps or any Windows 10 PC on your local network.

Microsoft said OTA DVR will hit the Xbox One starting in 2016.

Rumors of Xbox One’s DVR feature prior to its official announcement follow. 

According to Microsoft guru Paul Thurrott, the Xbox One will gain the ability to record live television later this year.

“The console currently only provides live TV watching, but not recording,” Thurrott wrote recently. “My sources tell me that will change, and most probably this year, to include TV recording.”

It’s unclear how the Xbox team will achieve DVR — the method by which the Xbox One supports live TV viewing, HDMI passthrough, has built-in protections that actively prevent recording. But Microsoft could potentially sign agreements with pay-TV providers for specialized access. A partner-by-partner approach would be invariably difficult and slow, but it’s one of few viable routes barring a cloud-based platform like Sony’s Vue TV.

Alternatively, Microsoft could limit recording to over-the-air content. The company launched a TV tuner in Europe last year, and recently announced support for a stateside equivalent supporting network bands in the U.S. and Canada. Unlike cable and satellite boxes, the adapter connects to the Xbox One over USB, which would allow completely unencumbered recording (it currently only buffers up to 30 minutes).

However it’s implemented, DVR functionality would make the Xbox One an even more attractive media hub than it already is. The console supports some streaming of live TV to SmartGlass devices, and last year gained a dedicated media remote for launching and navigating streaming apps. Updates in the meantime have added live trending programs to OneGuide, a “boot to TV” setting, and a media player with support for a wide range of video formats.

DVR recording on Xbox One may not be the answer Windows users upset over the demise of Media Center were hoping for, but it’s certainly some consolation. And with the incredibly palatable price of some Xbox One bundles, it’s hard to go wrong picking one up.

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