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Xbox One: Exploring its synergies in the Microsoft ecosystem

Mark Hachman | Nov. 22, 2013
Don't believe for a second that an Xbox One will replace your gaming PC or your office PC--or even serve to supplement the PC itself. In some scenarios, in fact, a PC or a phone is almost a necessity for enjoying an optimal Xbox One experience.

The Xbox One dashboard consists of three screens. The central, home screen shows your most recent activities, all using the familiar Live Tiles motif. Panning left brings up apps, music, websites, and other content gamers can pin to their dashboard. Panning right from the home screen guides users to TV, apps, music, and videos they either own or can buy.

Xbox? Xbox? Are you listening to me?
Users could orally command the Xbox 360 with Kinect, but Microsoft has tightly integrated voice recognition within the Xbox One environment. On balance, though, I found voice commands frustratingly inaccurate. (I discovered later that users can train the Xbox One to better recognize speech input, "learning" the acoustics of the room for improved accuracy.)

Speech is to the Xbox One as touch is to Windows 8--a supplemental form of input, genuinely useful in places, but annoying if you're forced to use it. The One understood basic commands readily. But you have to know the lingo: "Launch Ryse Son of Rome" plays the appropriate game. "Play Ryse" tells the Xbox to start hunting for music and videos. And God forbid I should want to surf the Web or hunt down a band--more often than not, the One simply didn't understand what I was looking for. You'll probably find yourself defaulting back to the controller as your primary source of input.

The One also supports hand gestures: Opening your palm toward the One projects a cursor that you can move on the screen. Navigating within the One's matrix of boxy squares is feasible, but trying to land on a tiny webpage link is nearly impossible. Could Microsoft's R&D team steal a page from Sony and include eye tracking? Or would that make console shooters too easy?

There's a bit of irony in the fact that speech recognition has been buried for generations of Windows PCs, while it's been placed front and center in the living room's Xbox. And whereas users have shouted and waved their arms at generations of Windows machines, that behavior is now actually encouraged.

Internet Explorer: The case for SmartGlass
Ever since Google launched Google TV in 2010, content firms have been looking for better ways to put the Web on your television. At the time, Google's promise of the "best of the Web on your TV" implied video-on-demand streaming from CBS, TNT, and other providers. But after CBS and others blocked their content from Google TV, streaming content languished--until Netflix, Hulu, and others picked up the slack.

Though surfing the Web on the One looks fantastic, actually navigating to a website is a hassle. By default, IE opens to Bing's website. I expected Bing to log me in, but instead I had to navigate to the upper right and log in manually to my Microsoft account and Facebook.


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