My, how times have changed in the seven years since Microsoft launched the Xbox 360. Back then, all we wished for faster graphics, better online services and a cooler controller. Now, it's all about competing with tablets, transitioning to a download-only future, and becoming the ultimate hub for home entertainment.
Microsoft could announce the next-gen Xbox on May 21, if reports from The Verge and Paul Thurrott are to be believed. And while we're still hoping for a more powerful machine able to keep up with the latest PC gaming rigs, there's a lot more than muscle power alone on our wish list for Microsoft's next Xbox.
1. Deep sleep
The next Xbox will of course be faster than the current one, with a rumored eight-core CPU and 8GB of RAM. Blu-ray seems like a safe bet as well. But speedy in-game performance won't be enough. To keep up with the instant gratification of smartphones and tablets, Microsoft's console should be able to wake up from sleep mode in a snap, and quickly switch between games and apps. It should also update automatically, so there's no more waiting around while we're itching to play. (Sony has already promised instant-resume and background updates for the PlayStation 4.)
2. A more useful, less spammy dashboard
The Xbox 360's interface often feels like a gigantic advertisement for things to buy. This is a missed opportunity to increase engagement. Instead of constantly trying to sell us more content from partners that pay to fill add slots, how about surfacing more useful information, like games our friends are playing, or new shows to watch instantly on one of the many video apps (based on my viewing habits)? We don't expect a completely ad-free environment, but they should be clearly-marked as such, less prevelant, and better tailored to our interests. Especially if we're paying a subscription fee for your online service.
3. Smarter SmartGlass
SmartGlass is supposed to be Microsoft's great second-screen solution, but it's really quite limited. Sure, you can launch games and fire up some videos from your phone or tablet, but for many key apps, such as Netflix, SmartGlass is nothing more than a high-latency touch screen version of the Xbox 360 controller. Even in games that support SmartGlass, it's of dubious use. Who wants to look down from the TV to their tablet or phone to look at a map in Forza Horizon? Why can't I use SmartGlass to configure my Spartan loadout in Halo 4? Hopefully the next Xbox coincides with a more robust version of SmartGlass can work in a richer way with more games and apps.
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