It was great that Microsoft included several former Xbox bigwigs — Robbie Bach, J Allard, and Ed Fries — in the opening video montage at the Xbox One unveiling today. Seeing them was a reminder of just how much has changed since the game-centric early days of Microsoft’s console business.

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Former Xbox exec J Allard in today’s Xbox video.

In fact, the Xbox is officially not a video-game console anymore. It’s an “all-in-one entertainment system” for live television, sports, Skype, music, apps, and, yes, maybe some Call of Duty if you can get your significant other to stop watching Netflix.

(On that point, the video above is funny. Not entirely fair, but it makes a good point.)

Microsoft is betting a big chunk of its future on Xbox One. It’s the culmination of more than a decade of work on the Xbox business. And its success or failure will go a long way toward determining Microsoft’s fate as a company over the next decade.

Halo 5 better be awesome on this thing.

Those are some of my thoughts after spending the day on the Microsoft campus for the Xbox One unveiling. It was unlike any day I’ve spent in Remond, starting in a giant tent with its own Twitter account, and concluding in the Microsoft campus bar.

More of my takeaways from the day …

I held the Xbox One controller and I like it. The company has tweaked the design, and reoriented the battery pack to create more room on the back. The idea is to make the controller fit more comfortably in a wider variety of hands. The expanded force feedback — now you can even feel it through tiny motors in the triggers — added a new level of realism in the tech demos Microsoft ran us through.

xboxI’m a little underwhelmed by the aesthetics of the actual console that Microsoft showed today. From a distance it’s a relatively plain black box. Call me old school, but I think the later versions of the Xbox 360 look better.

The name Xbox One is clever. Better than Infinity or any of the other names that were rumored, in my opinion.

At long last, Skype is coming to Xbox Live, in HD. Microsoft didn’t give a live demo to reporters after the event — prompting one to ask a Microsoft manager if the on-stage Skype call was all just “smoke and mirrors.” New Skype apps can be tricky things, as I learned in my early days with the Surface RT. But if Microsoft can pull this off with minimal glitches, it will be a big deal for many families.

The lnability to play Xbox 360 games is a bummer. When I asked about that today, Microsoft Xbox hardware boss Todd Holmdahl blamed the situation on the shift to an eight-core x86 processor in the Xbox One, vs. the three Power PC cores in the Xbox 360. The two architectures aren’t compatible.

“We understand the importance of that,” he said of backward compatibility. “We’re going to continue our 360 business. We’re going to continue to invest in that. But as we looked at things we wanted to do moving forward … we couldn’t support all the legacy stuff and do all the stuff we we wanted to do.”

No, there are no DVR capabilities in the Xbox One. You’ll also still need a cable box to get all of that TV content. But make no mistake, Microsoft wants you to experience your television through the Xbox One and its new on-screen programming guide.

It’s interesting that Microsoft has decided to package a Kinect with every Xbox One. It will be more interesting to see how they price that package.

And finally, to answer the question everyone wants to know: Yes, the button on the front of the console does glow.

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Comments

  • http://twitter.com/TheSavaged1 Dan Savage

    Great article, Todd! We’re all a little disappointed that there will not be backwards-compatibility on the menu for the One, aren’t we? Still, most of us geeks have been jigging devices together in our living rooms to do all the things that the One is going to do for us in one, clean (boring!) form factor.

    Is there any word on cable-card compatibility? I see that there is an HDMI-in port on the back, but that doesn’t lead me to think that Microsoft is going to be successful at getting me to use the One as my TV-viewing device.

    • Forrest Corbett

      Above he wrote “you’ll also still need a cable box to get all of that TV content.” No DVR functionality either.

  • Artefact

    TV integration while far from perfect is a great step towards the vision of “connected entertainment.” More of our thoughts on Xbox One http://www.artefactgroup.com/#/content/xbox-one-one-console-to-rule-them-all-and-in-entertainment-bind-them

  • YossarianSolo

    I notice that there is no obvious ring on the Xbox One, which means no ‘red ring of death’… Not saying there won’t be problems, just won’t be able to call it the red ring anymore!

  • szuszu

    my recap of Xbox One:

    1. Glorified TV remote control, but I still need DVR to control my recordings

    2. Can’t share or exchange my games with friends

    3. No backward compatibility

    It does 1000 things ‘ok’ but NONE of them great…

  • Forrest Corbett

    Big strides, but still far from the “one box” that they are touting. For TV you’ll still need a cable box. If you want to pause, record… you’ll need an external DVR too. I was very excited about this, and glad they’re bringing TV into the mix… I can understand not wanting to build in a cable card slot, but without DVR capabilities this does less than the box I currently have.

  • guest

    If MS’s fate over the next decade is dependent on Xbox, then they’re in even bigger trouble than was already apparent. Will Xbox even reach lifetime breakeven by then?

  • me myself

    So I guess the Xbox one and the thousands of $$ on games u spend during its life will be nothing but a paperweight once ms no longer support it! So much for retro gaming!

  • noel msa

    Disappointed :-( with Google’s promising push for smart/Internet TV, I was hoping that MS will come in strong with an XBOX+TV, an all-in-one device! This would have been a sure winner to help with the pressures on reducing the carbon footprint and clutter.

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