The siege of your lounge

Mi­crosoft’s plan to own your lounge has kicked into high-gear with the an­nounce­ment of the highly an­tic­i­pated Xbox One…

Finweek English Edition - - TECHNOLOGY - Si­mon Din­gle

Your lounge is a bat­tle­field be­tween, among ot hers, Mi­crosoft and Sony. Both com­pa­nies have Tro­jan horses, in the form of gam­ing con­soles, wait­ing to at­tack your home en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem with ev­ery pos­si­ble form of con­tent. Two months a go, Sony un­veiled the PS4 sys­tem that it will launch by the end of the year, and last week Mi­crosoft an­swered with t he Xbox One. The lat­ter has tele­vi­sion in its sights and the abil­ity to con­trol your view­ing of tra­di­tional broad­casts from the Xbox plat­form.

This is eas­ier said than done, and we’ve seen sim­i­lar at­tempts be­fore from Mi­crosoft with its Win­dows Me­dia Cen­tre soft­ware that has a niche fol­low­ing from home-theatre en­thu­si­asts. The idea is that Mi­crosoft will in­ter­face with set-top boxes – like your DStv decoder – via in­frared or other means and con­trol chang­ing chan­nels and pre­sent­ing the broad­cast sched­ule.

This al­lows Mi­crosoft to do some cool things. For ex­am­ple, it can al­low you to chat with some­one on Skype while watch­ing TV or play­ing games – a fea­ture that will be in­cluded with the Xbox One. It also means Mi­crosoft can serve you ad­di­tional con­tent, in­clud­ing ads, over­lay­ing nor­mal tele­vi­sion broad­casts. More im­por­tantly, it shifts the pri­mary re­la­tion­ship with the viewer away from the pay tele­vi­sion op­er­a­tors of the world and into the hands of Mi­crosoft.

Mi­crosoft has also up­graded the Kinect sen­sor for the Xbox One that has a built-in high-def­i­ni­tion cam­era and tracks move­ment for mo­tion­con­trolled gam­ing and to nav­i­gate the Xbox in­ter­face. The Xbox One can also be voice-con­trolled. You can turn it on by say­ing “Xbox on” to launch a per­son­alised ver­sion of the in­ter­face, based on the per­son who’s speak­ing. Es­sen­tially, the Xbox One will know who is in the room and will con­fig­ure it­self ac­cord­ingly with that per­son’s friends, favourite games and tele­vi­sion shows.

What Mi­crosoft didn’t an­nounce was the ru­moured “Il­lu­miRoom” tech­nol­ogy, which was fea­tured in a YouTube video last month. This es­sen­tially projects ad­di­tional video and gam­ing con- tent into the room around your con­sole cre­at­ing a sort of pe­riph­eral vi­sion for view­ers and es­sen­tially trans­form­ing the room you’re in into the game or video world. We might see more of this at the Elec­tronic En­ter­tain­ment Expo in LA in June where Mi­crosoft has promised it will spend more time talk­ing about the new con­sole. Or it might come later. Or never.

When Mi­crosoft launched the orig­i­nal Xbox con­sole, Bill Gates said the com­pany would do what­ever it takes to win the mar­ket. It took many years to achieve, but now the strat­egy for to­tal lounge takeover is com­ing to­gether nicely.

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