REDMOND, Wash. (AP) — Will gamers want One?
After four years of development, Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One entertainment console and touted it as an all-in-one solution for playing games, watching TV and doing everything in between. Microsoft wants the Xbox One to be central to your living room, so it packed the new Xbox with such features as the ability to change TV channels through voice commands.
Although the device won't go on sale until later this year, at a price that hasn't been disclosed yet, Microsoft invited attendees of Tuesday's announcement event to take a closer look at the system.
Based on limited time with the device, the Xbox One feels like an improvement over its predecessor. But it fails to include features some fans have demanded, including the ability to play games bought for the existing Xbox 360 system.
Of course, many particulars about the Xbox One could change between now and when it's released. The specific date hasn't been revealed. More details are expected in three weeks at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the gaming industry's annual convention in Los Angeles.
For now, the system looks to be a thoughtful piece of technology, but there's still a lot that isn't known.
DESIGN: With contrasting matte and gloss finishes, the Xbox One is the slickest video game console so far, although we don't yet know what Sony's upcoming PlayStation 4 will look like. (Nintendo's Wii U is already out, although sales have fallen short of the company's forecasts.) The Xbox's outer shell, which Microsoft calls "liquid black," features vented flourishes and all the inputs and outputs one might need, including multiple USB ports and HDMI pass-through.
KINECT: The new version of the Xbox's camera-based Kinect system comes with better motion and voice detection, including the ability to recognize faces, tell if you're smiling or talking and gauge your heart rate. It appears as sexy as the Xbox console and has been overhauled under the hood. It's three times more sensitive and has a larger, 60-degree field of view. In a demo, the doodad's high-definition camera easily displayed crystal-clear 1080p video and could detect up to seven people, though it lagged as more folks stood in front of it. The basic motion detection appears vastly improved, but the voice detection feature wasn't made available to try out, adding to the list of unknowns.
PERFORMANCE: The system seems to work harmoniously together. For example, by combining the Kinect's face detection ability with the machine's wireless controllers, it recognized — almost magically — when users swapped controllers.
CONTROLLER: The new controller's layout is mostly unchanged, but the bulky battery bump is gone from the back. The smoother Xbox One controller boasts a new directional pad and vibrating trigger buttons. The triggers pulsated in tandem with such imagery as a character's heart beating and a car revving up during a demo with a prototype controller.
REQUIREMENTS: Luckily, the Xbox One won't require a constant connection to the Internet, but there's a possibility that some of the key features wouldn't work as well or at all. The Kinect system is required and will come with the machine, rather than sold separately as has been the case with the Xbox 360. The Xbox One also will feature privacy settings so it doesn't feel like the Kinect's camera is always watching you.
LIMITATIONS: Xbox 360 games won't work on the Xbox One because the underlying technology is different, according to Microsoft. Microsoft was vague about how the Xbox One will handle previously played games bought from other gamers, though it confirmed used games will work somehow. There had been talk that Microsoft might restrict used games on the new machine.
GAMES: What games? Despite the fact that such titles as "Call of Duty: Ghosts," ''FIFA 14" and "Forza Motorsport 5" were teased during Tuesday's flashy presentation, actual games weren't available to try out afterward. Microsoft said it plans to focus on Xbox One titles at the E3 conference, which starts June 11.
The Xbox One shows promise with a sleek shell and a new Kinect detector that seems to perform fine — at least if you don't try to confuse it with too many people at once. But the lack of games is notable, as are lingering questions about what it can do without an Internet connection. There are too many questions about the Xbox One, even after experiencing — not just hearing — what Microsoft has planned. At this point, it's too early to say whether Microsoft or Sony is leading in the latest round of the console wars. They'll have to duke it out at E3.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang
Kin 1 and Kin 2
The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/01/microsoft-kin-dead-micros_n_631439.html" target="_hplink">Microsoft Kin</a> smartphones debuted in April 2010. Marketed for teens, the devices were priced at $50 for the Kin 1, $100 for the Kin 2. Less appealing were Verizon's $70-per-month subscription plans, as were early reviews calling the devices "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/13/microsoft-kin-review-phot_n_574697.html" target="_hplink">not smart enough</a>" and "<a href="http://dvice.com/archives/2010/04/why-microsoft-k.php" target="_hplink">downright ugly</a>." In June, Microsoft pulled the plug on the Kin family and focused exclusively on Windows Phone 7.
Launched in 2004, the Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) watches connected to Microsoft's FM radio-based network (MSN Direct) and delivered weather reports, news snippets, stocks and sports scores to users. <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-9927213-1.html" target="_hplink">Writes</a> CNET, "Microsoft put a lot of money behind the Smart Watch and partnered up with Fossil, Suunto, Swatch, and even Tissot, which produced a high-end, touch-screen model that cost $800." Critics and consumers were not buying it, though. <em>Washington Post</em> reviewer Rob Pegoraro tested a $300 Suunto model and <a href="http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2008/04/microsofts_spot_watch_winds_do.html" target="_hplink">wrote</a> the following: "[It was] too big, too ugly, too useless, too expensive (especially with a $9.95/month subscription charge for Microsoft's MSN Direct data service)." The devices were discontinued in 2008.
The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/29/microsoft-courier-cancele_n_557493.html" target="_hplink">Courier Tablet</a>, leaked in 2009, was expected to be announced shortly before the iPad's debut in January 2010. According to rumors, the device would have featured two seven-inch screens that folded shut. However, this innovative twist on the tablet PC never saw the light of day. Microsoft instead unveiled a comparatively "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/07/hp-slate-tablet-microsoft_n_414364.html" target="_hplink">underwhelming</a>" single-panel tablet device called the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/07/hp-slate-tablet-microsoft_n_414364.html" target="_hplink">HP Slate</a>, which PCWorld called "<a href="http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/186247/hp_slate_lowers_the_bar_for_apples_tablet_pc.html#tk.mod_rel" target="_hplink">a mediocre device</a>" and "<a href="http://www.pcworld.com/article/186172/why_the_microsofthp_tablet_is_a_big_disappointment.html" target="_hplink">a big disappointment</a>." By late April, both the Courier Tablet project and the HP Slate were tabled. <blockquote><strong>UPDATE:</strong> A post written for the official Microsoft Blog in 2010 clarified that the Courier "project" was <a href="http://blogs.technet.com/b/microsoft_blog/archive/2010/04/29/speculation-about-the-courier-project.aspx" target="_hplink">never an official Microsoft product</a>. The statement read: "<em>At any given time, across any of our business groups, there are new ideas being investigated, tested, and incubated. It's in Microsoft's DNA to continually develop and incubate new technologies to foster productivity and creativity. The 'Courier' project is an example of this type of effort and its technologies will be evaluated for use in future Microsoft offerings</em>." The HP Slate was the result of a partnership between Microsoft and Hewett-Packard.</blockquote>
Windows Ultra-Mobile PC
The first hand-held devices built on Microsoft's unique Ultra-Mobile PC platform launched to ample buzz in 2006. This new class of powerful mini-devices, which accepted pen and touch input, never caught on. The first U.S. release, the Samsung Q1, received <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/article/125919/mobile_computing_ultra_mobile_pc_update.html" target="_hplink">poor reviews</a> because of its hefty price tag ($1,099), buggy software, and odd keyboard design. Other releases suffered similarly.
Microsoft's answer to the iPod hasn't had a good run. The Zune's share of the mp3 player market peaked at 10%, slumping to 2% in 2009, according to <a href="http://www.investorplace.com/34097/microsoft-kills-zune-mp3-player-smartphones-windows-phone-7/" target="_hplink">Investor Place.</a> <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-14/microsoft-said-to-stop-releasing-new-zune-models-as-demand-ebbs.html" target="_hplink">Bloomberg</a> reported that Microsoft would be killing off its music player due to "tepid demand" and cease releasing new models, though it would continue developing the Zune software. <blockquote><strong>UPDATE:</strong> <a href="http://zune.net/en-US/products/software/download/default.htm" target="_hplink">Microsoft announced on October 3</a> that it "will no longer be producing Zune players."</blockquote>
Microsoft's MSN TV (aka WebTV) was a service that allowed users to access the Internet via their televisions. The product, which may have been ahead of its time, was ultimately a flop, failing to attract more than 1 million subscribers. The <a href="http://cachef.ft.com/cms/s/0/a20ccd80-d16e-11df-96d1-00144feabdc0,s01=1.html#axzz1GxNEJiL8" target="_hplink">Financial Times</a> wrote of Microsoft's efforts, "Surfing the TV on a keyboard and web browser sounds about as enticing as pushing a rickety shopping cart across the plush carpet of a designer boutique."