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Xbox One: Exploring its synergies in the Microsoft ecosystem

Mark Hachman | Nov. 22, 2013
Don't believe for a second that an Xbox One will replace your gaming PC or your office PC--or even serve to supplement the PC itself. In some scenarios, in fact, a PC or a phone is almost a necessity for enjoying an optimal Xbox One experience.

While it's hard to imagine Xbox One owners using their TV as an oversize picture frame, high-resolution shots look great on an HDTV display. On the other hand, video playback stuttered repeatedly, pausing every few seconds.

For now, the lack of integration means that users can't stream their gameplay experiences. The Xbox One is programmed to record video automatically as gamers play, and you can upload snippets to SkyDrive and later share them. Still, the Xbox comes up a bit short here, especially against the Sony PlayStation 4 and its dedicated Share button.

Xbox Music, Movies, and the Store
I was hoping that at least a few of the available Xbox-specific content channels would offer something unique, but you won't see much here that you haven't seen elsewhere already. Searching for a particular TV show will bring up a list of suggestions. But as at Sony's PlayStation-specific store, you can simply buy what you're looking for.

Unfortunately, playing a song on Xbox Music brings up the same bland interface you'll find on Windows 8, with occasional blank screens interspersed with shots of the band or artist. Couldn't Microsoft have spiced it up with a WinAmp-style visualizer? I hear the team's available.

Again, the magic here is in being able to order the Xbox One to find what you seek. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. Content will also live within the Xbox One's app channel, a grid of upcoming TV shows and new content from Hulu, Xbox Video, and other apps. On Thursday, Google added a dedicated YouTube app for the One, another necessity.

How the One might evolve
I see Microsoft's devices-and-services business as a pool of content. Tilt the pool toward productivity, and a Windows 8 PC fills with Windows, Office 365, email, and more. Tilt it toward Windows Phone, and Microsoft's connectivity and communication apps come to the fore. The Xbox One collects Microsoft's entertainment services and serves them up to best effect.

That's the theory, anyway. In practice, Internet Explorer, Skype and even SkyDrive feel tacked on.

There's something to be said for kicking off your shoes, grabbing a cold beverage, and relaxing in your living room--which is probably the reason the One doesn't include a mail app--or for that matter, Office.

But Microsoft and its developers could do a better job of using the individual games and other types of content as planets for its services to orbit. For example: Microsoft has mentioned that an HTML walkthrough could be snapped alongside a game. Why, then, don't we see suggested webpages (walkthroughs, community forums) when a game is highlighted in the Store? SmartGlass allows you to read instant messages from your gamer friends, but why not tie it in with Skype instant messaging, as well? And gamers might appreciate an OnLive-style application to peek in and watch friends playing their games.


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