Microsoft announced the Xbox One today, which emphasizes an all-in-one model for interacting with your entertainment. Apple has been tinkering around in the television market for years, but do they have what it takes to make a business out of it?
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Microsoft announces the Xbox One, Apple faces new pressure

xboxOne

The Xbox is a surprising success. When the first generation of Xbox was introduced in 2001, many were wondering how it would work. A console from Microsoft? Will you have to install the games? Will it run Windows? The answer as we all know now, was no. It took years for Microsoft to make the Xbox a profitable product for them, but they have arrived, and in my opinion, doing better than their two main competitors- Nintendo and Sony.

Nintendo, my favorite, is struggling right now, as the Wii U is seeing tepid sales, and the handheld gaming market is being eaten into by smartphones and tablets, mainly the iPhone and iPad. Sony has slipped from their perch of dominance they once held with the Playstation 2. They arrogantly trooped in with the Playstation 3, assumed everyone would buy it, and played catchup in the realm of motion that were being brought to the mainstream by Microsoft and Nintendo. Sony then introduced the Playstation 4, without actually introducing anything. They showed some demo videos and announced that the hardware was coming. No hardware was shown off.

Today, Microsoft unveiled it’s next-generation console, the Xbox One. It features impressive specs, and a few games were demoed, but more interesting, at least to me, was Microsoft’s move to dominate the living room. In years past, Microsoft tried to sell set top boxes that turned your TV into a PC. The market did not rally around that idea. No, something different was needed.

Much in the same way the iPad introduced a user interface for the tablet form factor, it seems that Microsoft has tailored an experience around the TV- content taking center stage. Over the years, through a series of software updates, they have introduced this functionality to the Xbox 360, but with the Xbox One (One standing for all-in-one) it is ready right out of the box. Content and convenience will take presidence, cable television service will be passed through the One (via HDMI ). The cable functionality seems like icing on the cake, as the internet will be the new way we are served entertainment. Sure, it’s been heading this way for years, but it seems this is one of the first products to really emphasize that. Impressive hardware for gammers is great, I can’t wait to get my hands on it, but now is the time to make a product with broad appeal. Essentially, create a television appliance that serves up content when the viewer wants it, while doing it in a fun, cohesive, uncluttered way.

Apple has taken stabs at this for years. Google TV still hasn’t caught on, and I wouldn’t expect it to. For some time, many people, myself included have expected Apple to open up the Apple TV to developers. Suddenly and without warning, the $99 set-top box that serves up your iTunes and Netflix content, would become a game console. This would not be for hardcore gamers, but would appeal to a wide audience, much in the same way the iPhone and iPad have appealed to the market.

Instead, Apple is dragging behind in this regard, when I think they could have made the first move. However, I feel they backed themselves into a corner regarding the pricing of the device. That is, the device needs a decent controller or remote- anything besides the little aluminum remote you get with the device today. That’s not fit for much more than scrolling through a menu. I think Apple is waiting to introduce a better remote for the device- one that is cost effective, yet innovative. To me, it would be a lot to ask for someone to buy a $99 box and then have to purchase a $199 iPod touch to get the full experience. Perhaps this would work, but I doubt it.

Then again, and I mean this with all the love in the world, Apple never really has had gaming in it’s DNA. With either of their mobile product lines, they did not set out to introduce a gaming platform, it was just a happy side effect. They have since capitalized on this fact with advertisements and the App Store. The Mac has seen interest in recent years- Valve being the big player. But even Valve is tinkering with the idea of entering the set-top box market. But I digress. The point being, that games have never been a priority to Apple. App developers would undoubtedly be most interested in games on the Apple TV- productivity apps probably wouldn’t be a highlight on the big screen.

In all, I think, even without setting a finger on the new Xbox hardware, Microsoft at the very least has a clear idea of where television, content, and gaming are headed. Gone are the days were consoles were single-purpose computers that only play games. Apple, pardon the pun, could make this game interesting, if they wanted to.

 

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  • James Rogers

    If Microsoft had announced something really compelling, I would agree. However, they really didn’t. The One may morph into something more integrated over time, but as it was shown yesterday, this is just Google TV 2.0 on the content side. It’s a pass-through box with an IR Blaster. The market has rejected these products over and over, and the Live TV part of this will be no different- just a difficult and frustrating mess. Average users will quickly turn off that features, the same way they ignore apps on Smart TVs. It will stay this way until MS strikes more deals with cable companies (they had 1 or 2 that allowed the 360 to act as a cable box) and streaming content providers.

  • robjackson81

    With the Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Wii U, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo haven’t done enough to separate themselves from the potential competition (or each other). The doors is still wide open for Apple TV and/or Google TV to leverage mobile gaming, create a gaming experience, and become the entertainment hub each of these companies is seeking to become.

  • Renkman

    Man I really want the Apple TV to eventually be so much more. A hub of sorts if you will. I want to be able to play my games through the Apple TV, I want to be able to use it instead of my cable, I want…you get the idea. I think Apple has just grazed the surface of what it can do, and the Xbox One will be a nice example of what the public is ready to embrace going forward.