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It’s official, and it’s called the Xbox One. It’s voice activated, it’s fast, and it’s sleek. And it hasn’t been announced in Australia.

Microsoft calls its new gaming and entertainment system “a new vision for the future”. But it’s much as expected, and more an evolution from its successful Xbox360. The company unveiled the snazzy new device at its HQ in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, showcasing how Xbox One “puts you at the centre of all your games, TV, movies, music, sports and Skype.”

The launch was not short on hype. “Xbox One is designed to deliver a whole new generation of blockbuster games, television and entertainment in a powerful, all-in-one device,” said Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment division. “Our unique, modern architecture brings simplicity to the living room and, for the first time ever, the ability to instantly switch across your games and entertainment.”

He went on. The Xbox One will, apparently, change the world. “With Xbox One, games push the boundaries of realism, and TV obeys your commands. Say ‘Xbox On’ to launch your personalized Xbox One Home screen, discover what is popular on TV or see friends’ latest gaming achievements, all using the most natural interface — your voice. The more you interact with Xbox One, the more it gets to know you and learns what you like,“ he gushed.

Features include:

  • TV on Xbox One. “Navigate and watch live TV from your cable, telco or satellite set-top box through your Xbox One. Microsoft is committed to bringing live TV through various solutions to all the markets where Xbox One will be available.” (but don’t expect all this in Australia too soon).
  • Home. ”Turn on your entertainment system with two powerful words, “Xbox On,” and a custom-tailored Home dashboard welcomes you with your favourite games, TV and entertainment.”
  • Snap.Do two things at once on the biggest screen in your home. Use Snap to jump into a multiplayer battle while watching your favourite movie, talk with friends on Skype while watching live TV, or track your fantasy team on TV as you watch the big game and more.”
  • Skype. “Specially designed for Xbox One, talk with friends on your TV in stunning HD, or for the first time ever, hold group Skype calls on your TV.”
  • Trending. “Stay on top of what is hot on TV by discovering the entertainment that is popular among your friends, and see what is trending within the Xbox community.”
  • OneGuide. “Find your favourite entertainment easily, searching by network, name or time, all with the sound of your voice and presented in a tailored program guide.”

The Xbox One features an eight-core x86 processor, which Microsoft says “helps make lag and load times a thing of the past, so you can instantly jump between a game and your entertainment at lightning speed or run a host of apps right alongside your game with no loss in performance.”

It is being billed as a multimedia centre, but Microsoft has not forgotten gamers. “Gaming on Xbox One immerses gamers in cinematic worlds that look like real life, with characters that feel more human than ever before. AAA blockbuster titles unveiled for Xbox One include:

  • “Forza Motorsport 5”from Turn 10 Studios is the latest edition of the highest-rated racing franchise of the past 10 years.
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts, the next generation of Call of Duty and “a stunning leap forward for the franchise”,
  • FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25,NBA Live 14,” and “EA Sports UFC”from EA Sports
  • Quantum Break from Remedy Entertainment is a “revolutionary entertainment experience” from the creators of Max Payne and Alan Wake that “blurs the line between gaming and TV by integrating drama and gameplay into one seamless, uniquely immersive experience”.

There is also (in the US) a range of  exclusive content partnerships and a new generation of Xbox Live. “Xbox One is built to amplify an all-new generation of Xbox Live that is more powerful, more personal and more intelligent. Unleashing the virtually unlimited power of the cloud makes everything more convenient and accessible, from allowing games to be installed in segments so that gameplay can start quickly to updates downloading in the background. Save and store your personalised profile, games and entertainment in the cloud to access them anytime, from any Xbox One console.”

But wait, there’s more. It looks good, too. “The console is shaped in the 16:9 aspect ratio and employs a horizontal orientation optimised for its high-speed Blu-ray disc player. It is moulded in a deep and rich liquid black colour and includes a distinctive bevelled edge.

“The completely redesigned, revolutionary 1080p Kinect is more precise, more responsive and more intuitive. Its unparalleled vision, motion and voice technology let you reach into games and entertainment like never before by dramatically expanding its field of view and fidelity. It works in nearly any lighting condition, recognizes precise motion control from a slight wrist rotation, and distinguishes your voice even in a noisy room using advanced noise isolation.

“The class-leading Xbox controller is refreshed with more than 40 technical and design innovations. Updated directional pad, thumb stick and ergonomic fit immerse all gamers in ways that are uniquely Xbox, and precision and control have been dramatically increased with all new vibrating impulse triggers The Xbox One Wireless Controller is designed to work in concert with the new Kinect, allowing the two to be paired automatically to create seamless player syncing.”

Xbox One will launch in markets around the world “later this year”. No Australian announcement has been made.

More details will be available at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles on 11-13 June.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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