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Xbox One review: For gamers, yes, but you'll like it too

Jason Cross | Nov. 21, 2013
Microsoft's audacious assault on your living room is delightfully innovative yet unrefined.

"It's a Trojan horse!" they said. When Microsoft released the original Xbox in 2001, the company dominated the computing world, and common wisdom held that its console was going to use games as a gateway to conquering your living room. In the end, the Xbox was just a games machine. The Xbox 360 was also called a Trojan horse, and although it eventually proved to be a popular way to watch Netflix, it too was primarily just another games machine.

With the Xbox One, Microsoft isn't even bothering with the wooden-horse trick. The new console is a Trojan army, blatantly marching on your living room, carrying a banner that reads, "We are here for your TV!"

Made for a new era
When the Xbox 360 hit the market in 2005, we lived in a different world. Twitter didn't exist. Facebook was solely for college students. The iPhone was two years away. App stores? Xbox Live Arcade was one of the first, but the idea that you would download every app for your device from a unified online store is a relatively new thing, made commonplace by hundreds of millions of smartphone sales.

The Xbox One is, to its core, made to live in our new consumer-electronics era. It's an era in which we don't just watch TV, we tweet about it. We don't just play games, we share videos of our best moments. Nearly everything has an online component, and computers don't even have disc drives anymore. We live in an age in which talking to your phone's built-in assistant is so two years ago.

The Xbox One aims high. It promises to be your always-on living-room hub that plays nicely with your cable box, runs the latest and greatest games, streams, shares, and makes video calls. That it succeeds at all is somewhat amazing, though in some ways Microsoft has bitten off more than it can chew. The Xbox One is a truly next-generation device, enjoyable by a wide audience without alienating the core enthusiasts, but its software lacks polish and refinement.

TV is more than cable
Maybe you don't have a cable or satellite subscription. Maybe you're a cord-cutter, and you get everything from Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon Instant Video. Those apps and more are nicely integrated into the Xbox One environment, though it leaves me wanting more.

"Xbox, Bing South Park" brings up a list of all content related to the TV show. (Yes, like an uncool parent desperately trying to relate to teenage kids, Microsoft insists that you use "Bing" as a verb instead of "Search," thus making both Bing and Xbox less cool.) Select an episode, and the Xbox One shows you all supported services where you can watch it.

 

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