The optimistic view of an always-connected Xbox 720

Given all the public outcry over a potentially always-on and always-online Xbox 720, I thought it would be fun to imagine the reasons this could be a good thing.

For the sake of this discussion, we are going to make the following assumptions:

  1. Always-on refers to an Xbox that never powers down. When you "turn it off" it goes into standby mode, but remains connected to the internet for various reasons.
  2. Always-on does not refer to constant DRM checks while playing a game that will force you to stop playing if your connection goes out. I think we can all agree that this would be a dealbreaker.
  3. The Xbox 720 will come will Kinect 2.0 built in and at least 500gb storage in the basic model.

Given those assumptions, I am going to list various scenarios (some rumored, some imagined) where this always-on feature would be a welcome addition to the Xbox 720:

  • Standby mode would allow the Xbox to receive updates without you even having to think about it. It could potentially even install those updates without you noticing, but it is more likely that would will boot up your Xbox and be greeted by a message saying an update has been downloaded and you can now install it.
  • No more minute-long boot up times if the Xbox is already on.
  • Standby mode would allow Kinect to always be listening (kinda scary when phrased that way). You will be able to "turn on" your Xbox, load Netflix, and choose a movie without ever having to touch a controller. Just say the words.

Another huge aspect of this is that standby mode would also allow other devices in your home (or possibly remotely!) to access your Xbox at all times. This would enable all sorts of streaming and syncing possibilities. An always-on Xbox could essentially act as a server for your entire home and beyond. Let's imagine the amazing possibilities this creates:

  • Media streaming both to and from your local PC's, tablets, and mobile phones.
  • Remote streaming while you are on the go? What if Microsoft builds Slingbox capabilities into the new Xbox? This wouldn't be possible unless your Xbox is always-on.
  • Streaming games?! With an always-on Xbox, what would stop Microsoft from releasing an Xbox Mini for other TV's in your home? Imagine an Xbox version of an Apple TV that would be able to stream Halo 5 (like On-Live) to another room in the house while someone is watching Netflix on the Xbox 720.

It's not hard to imagine scenarios like these that are only possible with an always-on Xbox, and these probably just scratch the surface (no pun intended) of what may or may not be planned. Obviously, an always-DRM-checking Xbox would be a disaster, but let's be optimistic for a few minutes. The Xbox 720 just might be amazing.