> Xbox One: PC in Disguise

Xbox One: PC in Disguise

Posted on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 | No Comments


The new Xbox Onecontinues to intrigue me as both a device and as a concept in where the future lies for Microsoft.  The humble ‘games console’ from 2001 has morphed into a full on “Entertainment PC” (and I use the term “PC” entirely on purpose), combining movies, music, apps and communication in the form of Skype messaging.
Despite a lot of the ‘futuristic’, forward thinking items being stripped from the device due early feedback from those who like to make a lot of noise and fuss – my initial reaction was to cancel my pre-order (which I did), but more recently, now that the device has actually landed, albeit momentarily, in stores I have place a new order and can’t wait to see what it can do.
The reasoning behind this post however, is more around the crossover of services that appear within the Xbox One and the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem.
SkyDrive
Just like the Xbox 360, the Xbox One has a SkyDrive application which allows users to display their cloud stored photo and video content – which is great, as it totally complies with the vision of being able to access all of your data, everywhere, with whatever device you happen to be using at that time.
SmartGlass
SmartGlass technology continues to play an important part in the Xbox experience; already movies, games and music content are tightly integrated together into a full media eco-system that spans across PC, Tablets and phones.
This tech has recently made its way into the Office application through a new feature that allows Windows Phone to “RemoteOffice” and control documents on screen.  This is a powerful feature that should extend to other Microsoft services and be refined further over time.
Hyper-V
As I already talked about in a previous post, the under lying operating system of the Xbox One fascinates me as it really pushes the Hyper-V hypervisor, virtualisation software into new territory.  I can already envisage desktop PCs with similar multi-OS, fast switching layers – combined with “snap” functionality.
Live Television
The live television interaction is clearly something that is going to be ‘work-in-progress’ over the next few years as Microsoft refine their system and find their way in the myriad of different television protocols and systems from country to country. 
Kinect
Recently, Apple acquired the company that developed the prototype Kinect (or should that be Natal), movement controller, which suggests that others are increasingly becoming more interested in the movement and augmented reality worlds that Kinect is able to manage in today’s version of the device.
All of these services are great in their own right and they go some way to demonstrate Microsoft’s reach across devices and services.  But the one element that I particularly wanted to focus on today was Skype.
Skype
With the acquisition of Skype and the introduction of the Xbox One it emerged on the Skype blog that the whole integration was re-worked for the console version to allow some unique features such as person tracking which permits the camera to zoom and follow the user(s), around the room.
The example on the demonstration shows two developers in an office/meeting room conversing with the presenter in another room.  The camera pans, tracks and tilts accordingly and the demo is a huge success.



What got me thinking more though was if this is the power of the Kinect and Skype coming together on Xbox One, what would stop companies buying an Xbox One and using it as a fancy presentation device?  They’d be able to use the Kinect camera and Skype for presentations, SmartGlass/RemoteOffice combined with Skype and an Office Viewer to display content and use the “snap” features of the virtualised Hyper-V OS to split the screen between the ‘apps’ required.
The more I thought about this, the more it seemed to make sense to create a Xbox-like device that strips out the gaming element to create a high-end presentation room device that fits seamlessly into the Microsoft ecosystem and is controllable from multiple devices (Microsoft/Android/Apple tablets/phones/other devices).
Other Devices
The example I gave above, is obviously very focused on a particular presentation room scenario and would attract a very limited market in my opinion – which is why I ponder the question of businesses buying into the Xbox One rather than a separate, stand-alone device. 
With this though in mind, the Xbox One isn’t a games console any more, it really does become another “PC Device” in a supposedly “post-PC” world that could be applied to other locations and purposes outside of the living room.
I’ve been reading recently forums that ponder the question of Microsoft building TVs with Xbox One type elements built directly into them.  Whilst I think that is some way off just yet, it could become a reality – especially if they are able to build the Kinect directly into the screen.  Another element worth considering here is the acquisition of PixelSense by Redmond; 50-inch plus touch screen technology combined with the possibilities described above may well just be what business are missing from their board rooms, reception areas, lobbies, factories or elsewhere.
Testing the Waters
Make no mistake about it, Microsoft are becoming that “Services and Devices” company that they claim to be and the Xbox One is not only a tactical device to sneak Microsoft into your living room as your entertainment PC, but it is also a device that sits under your TV in disguise as platform for devices in the future. 
Much like the iPad targeted the home consumer and those devices transitioned (albeit unofficially in most cases, starting the BYOD movement), into business and enterprise arenas, the Xbox One similarly tests the waters within the home consumer of this multi-layered approach to its own services that will come full circle back into Enterprise Technology.
Like the Surface tablets, there is clearly more than meets the eye of the Xbox One - a PC device working in a “post-PC” world.

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