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XBox OneLet the avalanche of internet posts begin! Microsoft today announced their next generation gaming rig will be known as XBox One and the specs and proposed uses for the new system are impressive to say the least. Not  only is the XBox One set to provide a higher level of gaming there are also other integrated features including Skype, television, and improved control features using your body and voice. While there’s plenty of info coming out I’m sure we have more questions than answers regarding the console. The italics below are part of the official Microsoft announcement.

Here’s what the XBox One will feature:

8 Cores

An 8-core x86 processor lets you instantly switch between a game and your entertainment apps with ease.

Take those eight cores as well as 8GBs of memory and a 500 GB hard drive – Wow! That’s some seriously major league horsepower there kids especially those 8 gigs of Ram! The x86 cores might not be as eye opening to folks who aren’t overly familiar with or a lot of PC experience but if the architecture is solidly configured this should be cranking out more performance than many higher end desktops in the average home. Granted these are still x86 cores though. I think this could even create a trickle down effect of lowering the prices of PC based desktops…

HDMI Pass-Thru

Connect your cable or satellite box to your Xbox One and prepare for lift off. HDMI pass-thru enables you to watch TV through your Xbox, which makes switching inputs seem almost pre-historic.

I’m not sure if just the HDMI pass-thru is something which would be a huge game changer simply because this seems to be more a nice added feature as opposed to a critical selling point. What seems more important than the fact you won’t have to change inputs is the question of how XBox One will integrate with your current cable or satellite provider (More on that in a moment.)

Blu-ray

Watch movies and play games in stunning HD with a  Blu-ray player.

I have to say this was probably the main reason I chose a PS3 as opposed to the XBox 360 when I purchased my go to console last time around. Microsoft is a little late to the game as far as including a Blu-ray player but everyone knew there would be no way this wouldn’t be part of this next gen.

XBox One InterfaceAlso added into the mix are new or improved ways to control both the action on the screen as well as the user interface for the whole system. It looks like much of the Windows 8 interface will port over in some way to the XBox One. Not only has the base controller been redesigned but also Kinect (which has been wonky in most people’s opinions) is being revamped while your tablet and smartphone are going to interact with the system in more ways than ever before. A microphone is being added to the console in order to give you expanded voice commands in order to boot up the console and switch from game to home screen to movies and music.

Early indications lead us to believe Microsoft is looking to bring a whole new level of interactivity with your console apps by including Skype video calling and the ability to watch streaming media while also staying in touch with friends and family by snapping windows into place across your television screen. This is surely a move in order to appeal to potential buyers, who aren’t big gamers, by providing a seamless multimedia experience which allows them to surf the net, watch TV, stay plugged in to all their social media sites, and share each excruciating opinion or detail on life in general. Microsoft took a hit previously with the 360 because non-gamers looked at the platform as simply dedicated to gaming.

As with most console launches there’s plenty of promises but it remains to be seen how polished and shiny many of the features of the One will turn out right off the bat. I’ll opine Microsoft is moving in an interesting direction as the 360 was a solid choice of die hard video gamers while playing the redheaded step child to the PS3 (or even WII) when it came to the more casual crowd. Add in the fact 2012 was  a disastrous year for video gaming, with a double digit drop in title sales, and it’s apparent the One is going to have to appeal to more than just twitch junkies. And I use the term “twitch junkies” in a very nice way people so don’t get up in arms.

While the One sounds pretty phenomenal in theory – I’m not saying Microsoft won’t pull this off because I’m certainly not a hater – there are still many unanswered questions about this next gen…

What’s the Initial Cost?

No word initially about the price point we can expect to see at the retail level although somewhere in the realm of $400 – $500 or more seems very likely. Also there’s no indication of different configurations to be available as far as boosting (or depleting) hard drive space so are we to understand the One, at least at the start, will only be available as a 500gb model. That would be surprising seeing how easily a terabyte sized drive should easily become a benchmark if the trend to delivering games and more other than physical disks continues to accelerate – more on this below.

What are the Follow Up Costs?

Call of Duty: GhostsWe already know XBox Live runs just under $60 a year and adding in Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and just about any other enjoyable plugin to the 360 brings with it an additional cost. I’m sure the pricing structure of multi-platform apps (like Netflix) will stay the same but what about those only available on the One? Sure, knowing you can have your players’ fantasy sports stats pop up while you kicking it with the latest episode of Game of Thrones sounds great! Paying an extra an extra four or five bucks a month to do so sours me on the idea. Smart money is on seeing some companies (I’m looking at you ESPN and Fox Sports as examples) developing One specific apps, at no cost, more to avoid the internet backlash of nickel and diming users as opposed to anything else.

I Love TV! Who’s In and Who’s Out?

Demos of the One have featured Comcast (and Xfinity) so we know they’re on board. Other providers already have X-Box Live features currently so I’ll take a stab they should be included in the mix too. Yet, what about buyers who only have a single choice of pay TV providers which doesn’t have any affiliation with Microsoft? Will those users find their One experience extremely stunted due to no fault of their own? Reading between the lines of what the gameplan may be for the One leads me to believe the console is being designed as a replacement in some ways to the cable box in your entertainment center. What does this mean to the  established pricing system of building the cost of your initial cable or satellite box into your billing? What? You thought you were getting that first box for free? Hahahahaha! Could this mean eventually seeing the One configured for specific end users based on their provider since no two companies provide a signal in the same exact way? I’ll guess this is more likely to be addressed by firmware updates depending on who you use. I’m curious if the One is going to replace your “TV box” will there be the opportunity to stream television to other screens throughout the house ala a media server? Personally, I find this one of the more interesting aspects of the aim to make the One all things to all users.

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