Xbox One fights for the living room

On May 21, Microsoft unveiled its next-generation game console, the Xbox One. This hour-long sneak preview into what’s coming soon for the entertainment platform gives us a pretty good picture into how serious Microsoft takes the living room. While the devices-and-services company struggles in mobile and other computing devices, it has a pretty good head start in the living room, and the message to competitors: We’re ready for a fight.

Microsoft positions the new console as a serious player in the living room. Xbox One shucks tradition to the wind as evidenced by the fact that the very first demo showed off its multimedia prowess: Fast app switching, made capable by three operating systems; deep Skype integration and a drastically improved natural interface layer powered by Kinect.

Instead of telling the same story as Apple TV, Roku, and Boxee by playing in a market dominated by devices that connect TVs to other services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and many others, Microsoft decided to tell its own story and change the conversation. Deep integration into the live TV experience opens up the floodgates for all sorts of new usage scenarios and interactive TV experiences.

The little Microsoft has shared so far is quite compelling. What we don’t know is how much it will cost; what the developer story will be; how the gaming platform enables new experiences (i.e. real-time multiplayer multi-device gaming) and a host of other questions. Microsoft did show enough to let competitors know that it will not cede this space easily. In enabling live TV through the console, making the content interactive and the device natural to use, Microsoft effectively changes the conversation in living room entertainment.

Amazon is said to be entering this space. What remains to be seen is whether the retailer will create a small Roku-like box that provides easy access to its content and other connected services. Regardless, no one seems to be even close to the media capabilities of the Xbox One. Is the Xbox One a game changer? I don’t know. However, I definitely think it’s a conversation changer.

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