After months of rumors and speculation, Microsoft's next-generation console is finally here. During a special event at the company's Redmond headquarters today, Microsoft is unveiling Xbox One. Describing it as an all-in-one console, Microsoft's Don Mattrick unveiled the new shaped Xbox controller alongside Xbox hardware that closely resembles a set-top box.
On the hardware side, Microsoft has included 8GB of RAM, a single custom 40-nanometer system-on-chip with an 8-core CPU and GPU, and a custom 500GB HDD. The system-on-chip is made by AMD and Microsoft designed its own HDD in-house. Microsoft claims a combination of three operating systems power the One with the kernel of Windows. The system also utilizes a Blu-ray drive, USB 3.0, and built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi for gaming and entertainment. Microsoft also has new Kinect to share, and it includes a 1080p wide-angle camera that's designed to read your heartbeat while you exercise. Microsoft's new Xbox controller includes 40 design changes and impulse triggers that let you feel the feedback directly in the triggers themselves. The controller and Kinect work together to recognize a player, allowing gamers to raise a controller and cause actions in games, and more.
"Xbox on" turns on the hardware to power up an instant-on system with a new Home dashboard that is near-identical to Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. Voice commands let you navigate the system, with options to control live TV. A new Instant Switching feature lets you move between applications and live TV streams instantly. Content can either be streamed from the web, or be pulled in through an HDMI in port on the back of the console. Microsoft has also built in a number of new gestures with Kinect, allowing players to navigate and close applications. Snap Mode follows a similar path to Windows 8, allowing Xbox One owners to run multiple apps alongside each other. Microsoft demonstrated a method where an app, like Internet Explorer, can run side-by-side while a movie plays.
Xbox One also includes Microsoft's Skype Xbox application with group video calling. Notifications display on the Xbox Home dashboard with a Snap Mode that lets you video call while you're watching movies. A new Xbox One Guide includes voice control search and navigation, and the ability to add favorites and see what type of content is trending. Voice commands like "watch CBS" navigate directly to the relevant content. Other software improvements include full SmartGlass integration to control the Xbox One with smartphones and tablets. Xbox One also includes a Game DVR feature that captures gameplay and allows you to share videos over Xbox Live and elsewhere.
More gaming exclusives teased for E3
It's clear there's a strong focus on entertainment here with the Xbox One, but Microsoft was quick to demonstrate its gaming heritage too. The first wave of Xbox One games include EA's NBA Live, FIFA, UFC, and Madden. Forza will return to the Xbox One, with Forza Motorsport 5 available at launch later this year. Downloadable content for the upcoming Call of Duty: Ghosts will launch exclusively on the Xbox One and Microsoft is teasing more exclusives at E3 in June. If you're looking to use existing Xbox 360 titles on the One, Microsoft has confirmed there is no backwards compatibility, and you won't be able to use existing Xbox 360 controllers either.
Quantum Break, an exclusive One title made by the creators behind Max Payne and Alan Wake will debut later this year, offering a blend of TV and gaming. Microsoft also announced a new expansion of the Halo universe with a live-action TV series coming to Xbox Live Steven Spielberg is involved in the production, and Microsoft is teasing it as an example of the internet-connected content that is coming with the Xbox One. A broad partnership with the National Football League will also see the Xbox One positioned as primary interactive experience for watching football.
Plenty of questions remain, and Microsoft has only teased the very first look at its next-generation console. There's no date for the Xbox One launch or pricing, but Microsoft is promising more information on games and other features at its E3 press event in June. Meanwhile, Microsoft is also holding its Build developers conference in late June, where we should expect to hear a lot more about how third-party developers create applications for the system.
Update: We're already getting some answers to those early questions. Engadget is reporting that the Xbox One's 500GB hard drive will not be user-replaceable as the Xbox 360's was. However, its USB 3.0 ports can be used for external storage.