After a decade of hardware duds, Microsoft gets it right with the Xbox One

microsoft xbox one announcement

Over the last 10 years, Microsoft has made some horrid choices on some of its products. The Zune is probably the poster child for these stupid moves.

The Zune team knew it needed to optimize for video, but forgot to offer any video content. Microsoft should have brought out an iPhone-like product first, but it didn’t. The Zune’s killer feature was subscription music, but few people knew because Microsoft never marketed it well. (Instead, the marketing focused on sharing, which only worked if you knew someone with a Zune – and that virtually never happened given the iPod’s dominance.) On the Zune, Microsoft likely set a record on the number of really bad decisions.

Well, with the Xbox One, Microsoft has clearly turned a page, because it’s hard to find a single bad decision in any aspect of the product.

Design

While both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 aspired to be entertainment hubs as much as game consoles, neither really look like it belonged in an A/V cabinet. Sony was closest at first with its piano black and chrome, but a redesign to reduce cost later made it look more like a game console.

With the Xbox One, Microsoft has created a design that looks right at home in a next-generation stereo cabinet. It looks less like a gaming system and more like what it is becoming: a multimedia hub. The only thing it really needs is a matching amplifier, 5.1- or 7.1-channel speaker output, and a way to move sound and video throughout the home more seamlessly. Then it would really become the home entertainment system of the near-term future. This media-centric design is one of Microsoft’s better decisions.

Blu-ray

The market is moving toward streaming movies in the near future, but playing some content, like 3D movies or discs you already own, is still going to require an optical drive. While the Xbox Two (the number naming is a good move as well) can likely eliminate this drive when it arrives, Microsoft first needs a transition product. Adding a Blu-ray drive was an unexpected move, given that it’s a Sony-sourced technology, but the correct move. This allows the Xbox One to step into its full role today, and replace dedicated Blu-ray players while adding gaming.

Advanced Kinect

xbox one kinect sensor cameraAs Nintendo showcased, games where you jump around and swat things seem to have a relatively short lifetime, but we will do the same exercises for decades. That means that one of the Kinect’s most important functions will be as a tool for exercise. By adding a pulse monitor, folks can now better justify buying an Xbox One as a tool for weight loss, even if they never end up buying an exercise title. Making the product easier to justify while actually making it better for exercise is a brilliant way to get over buyer objections and provide a more sustainable value.

Voice command

Voice recognition is a lot harder to do well than you think, especially on a TV. If the voice command system can’t differentiate between its own voice and yours, you can have a “revolt” where the TV takes control of itself and just annoys you to death. Microsoft has been working on voice command since the 1990s, and has one of the leading core technologies. Given this head start, the Xbox One’s voice recognition could potentially be even more accurate than efforts by Apple and Google.

Exclusive content

If you are going to have a product that blends TV and gaming, you should be exploring titles that blend those media, and Microsoft is. One of the announced titles, Quantum Break, will blend TV and gameplay uniquely, potentially doing what Defiance tried to do, but was unable to, given the technology this year. While it may take several tries to get this blend right, if you don’t start early you’ll likely never get there, and this kind of content will clearly separate this console from what came before.

QuantumBreak

DVR

The one obvious thing Microsoft left out was DVR capability, but even that was a wise move. If you’ve ever tried a DVR that didn’t come from your cable company, you’ve learned that getting support from cable companies is a joke, the box won’t integrate well with cable services, and there are limitations on the content. Oh, and if you try to build your own, the four-tuner card you’ll want will likely set you back more than the Xbox One costs. In short, the added cost just isn’t worth the added benefit, particularly given the slow move away from channel access to on-demand streaming of TV shows and movies. So leaving this feature out, at least for now, makes sense as well.

Wrapping up

It is rare any company, that makes all the right choices when it comes to a new consumer product – even Apple seldom does. At least until we get one of these to mess with, it looks like Microsoft (for once) did the impossible, and that makes this announcement historic. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since the Xbox brand has historically been a Microsoft success story, but the Xbox One seems to have even done that better than its predecessors. Go figure?

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Home Theater

I’ve seen the 8K TV future, and you should be excited. Here’s why

Samsung set the tech world on fire when it announced it would sell an 85-inch 8K TV in the U.S. along with several 8K screen sizes in Europe. Debates over the validity and value of such a high resolution have continued since, and we're here…
Home Theater

From game consoles to 4K UHD spinners, these are the best Blu-ray players

Streaming may be popular, but the disc isn't dead yet. To get the very best picture and sound quality from your system, you need to be watching Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, and these are the best Blu-ray players you can buy.
Home Theater

If you've got questions about Ultra HD Blu-ray, we've got answers

Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and players are a killer way to beef up your home theater. Here's everything you need to know about one of the most significant advances to hit home entertainment in years.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Gaming

Feeling nostalgic? Here are the 25 best Sega Genesis games

Although the company has since fallen into obscurity, Sega was an indisputable titan throughout the '90s. That said, here are 25 best Sega Genesis games that helped define its fabled decade.
Mobile

Inferiority is a feature now! Palm's new plan is psychotic

The Palm is a smartphone to reduce your smartphone usage, or a small smartphone for when you don't want to carry your big smartphone. Palm itself doesn't seem sure which it is, but either way, it's a product that's so witless, we're amazed…
Home Theater

Budget TVs are finally worth buying, and you can thank Roku

Not all that long ago, budget TVs were only worth looking at if, well, you were on a budget. Thanks to Roku, not only are budget TVs now a viable option for anyone, but they might even be a better buy than more expensive TVs.
Mobile

Huawei and Leica’s monochrome lens is dead, so we celebrate its life

The Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro do not have a dedicated monochrome camera lens, unlike the P20 Pro, and various Huawei and Leica phones before it. It's the end of an era, and also the start of a new one, as Leica has worked on its…
Mobile

Smartphone makers are vomiting a torrent of new phones, and we’re sick of it

Smartphone manufacturers like Huawei, LG, Sony, and Motorola are releasing far too many similar phones. The update cycle has accelerated, but more choice is not always a good thing.
Opinion

Do we even need 5G at all?

Faster phones, easier access to on-demand video, simpler networking -- on the surface, 5G sounds like a dream. So why is it more of a nightmare?
Computing

Razer’s most basic Blade 15 is the one most gamers should buy

Razer's Blade 15 is an awesome laptop for both gamers, streamers, professionals, and anyone else needing serious go in a slim profile, but its price is out of reach for many games. The new Blade 15 Base solves that problem with few…
Gaming

Going to hell, again. The Switch makes 'Diablo 3' feel brand-new

I've played every version of Diablo 3 released since 2012, racking up hundreds of hours in the process. Six years later, I'm playing it yet again on Nintendo Switch. Somehow, it still feels fresh.
Home Theater

The Apple AirPods 2 needed to come out today. Here are four reasons why

Apple announced numerous new products at its October 30 event, a lineup that included a new iPad Pro, a MacBook Air, as well as a new Mac Mini. Here are four reasons we wish a new set of AirPods were on that list.
Gaming

‘Fallout 76’ may have online multiplayer but it’s still a desolate wasteland

"Is Fallout 76 an MMO?" That depends on who you ask. Critics and players often cite its online multiplayer capabilities as a reason it qualifies. Yet calling the game an MMO only confuses matters, and takes away from what could make…