Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Xbox One New Media Giant

When I was at the Gadget Show Live we took a well earned rest in the Microsoft demonstration workshop somewhere near towards the end of the show.  We'd been on our feet for hours and felt the need to sit down and let someone else do all the talking - to be fair, I do go a bit when I'm at one of these bashes.  To be honest, I wanted to see what Windows 8 had to offer - many of the machines on display outside of the Microsoft trade stand didn't have usable software loaded so I couldn't see how it worked with Office, for example.

Anyway, a Microsoft guy pitches up and shows us that he's got a Windows 8 mobile phone, a Dell laptop running Windows 8 and he pointed vaguely in the direction of the right hand side of the stand and declared he had an Xbox over there.  To be fair he could have pointed at any old pile of geek tech nonsense because gaming isn't really my bag.

Then he went on to demonstrate how you can stream a film on one device, stop it and pick up the film on any of the others.  He also showed how you can control the Xbox with the  mobile phone, remotely if needed, so you could set your Xbox to record a programme while travelling home on the train.  He did some gaming things that washed right over me - there's a good reason why I don't have any of those gaming machines at home.  We've got enough tech gear gathering dust without adding any more.  Now I'm not naïve, I can spot a well rehearsed presentation when I see I see one - I've spent many years as a technical and systems instructor myself- and I suspected that there was a suitable amount of smoke and mirrors at play.  To be honest, at one point I was expecting David Copperfield to walk on.

Anyway, as we walked out of the presentation I turned to my wife and mentioned that I didn't know the Xbox was a full media machine and deep inside I thought it could be the way forward, the link between smart TVs, DVRs and downloadable content.  It appears it wasn't an illusion after all.

Microsoft have just released previews of their latest iteration of the Xbox and it seems that gaming, while still a core element of the machine, it isn't the be all and end all of it.  In fact they've made some changes under the hood that has angered a lot of die-hard gamers, moving the processor technology closer to standard PC equipment.  That does mean that it should be easier to port PC games across to the new Xbox, now called Xbox One if you're asking, but apparently there are issues with backwards compatibility.  You've got to hand it to Microsoft, they do have a habit of resurrecting the same old chestnuts every so often - I could be writing about the windows 95 launch and not need to change many of the words here.

But the parts of the new device that interest me is the media aspect.  It looks like Microsoft are pitching this at a new audience and producing a machine that will appeal to those who watch films and TV, listen to music and maybe play the odd game.  To help sell the new version they've built Kinect into the machine instead of having it as an add-on.  This part will not only contribute to interactive gaming but also gives you access to voice commands to control your media watching as well as allowing you to wave your arms around to stop and start recording.  In fact, going back to the demonstration, you should be able to wipe the Windows 8 tiles across your TV set with a wave of an arm, making your TV into a virtual touch screen.

But looking a little deeper it looks like Microsoft are positioning themselves into providing media access, stepping onto the toes of Apple, Amazon including their Lovefilm subsidiary, and Netflix.  Whether they'll tee up a strategic arrangement with one or more of them remains to be seen, but going back to that Windows 95 period I would suggest that any such strategic alignment is likely to end in tears for whoever signs up with Microsoft.

So Windows 8 isn't just a new operating system, it's a paradigm change.  Instead of having a separate instantiation of the OS on each machine you own, acting independently to all other instances, they all work together.  You log in using your Microsoft login and you access anything you have legitimate access to on any Windows machine you are logged on to.  I can't comment on how this new Xbox looks like to the gaming world - and I'm aware there are a few unhappy bunnies out there - it certainly looks interesting to those of us who use other forms of media.  One to watch.


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