With just two weeks to go until the Xbox One launch, Microsoft has announced the first wave of TV and entertainment apps that it will provide to users of the new console. There's nothing unexpected here, but it's pretty clear that the firm is serious about positioning Xbox One as a complete entertainment solution, and not a video game console that can also serve up entertainment content.
"We set out to make Xbox One the all-in-one games and entertainment hub for your home, the one system that offers the best games next to the best entertainment experiences and apps," Microsoft Xbox Chief Product Officer Marc Whitten said in a prepared statement. "Along with offering a stellar app portfolio from around the world, Xbox One takes the next step by offering them in a way that is seamless and easy to use."
The list of TV and entertainment services varies by country as you'd expect, so check out First Wave of TV & Entertainment Apps Coming to Xbox One Unveiled on Xbox Wire for the complete list. Here in the United States, we're going to see the following entertainment apps at launch.
Amazon Instant Video
Redbox Instant by Verizon
The NFL on Xbox One
Verizon FiOS TV
And HBO GO is listed as "coming soon." It's a good list. But it's also very similar (perhaps identical) to what's offered on the Xbox 360. And since the Xbox One doesn't offer higher resolution than the 360, what's the real value proposition here?
A couple of things.
First, Xbox One offers an HDMI pass through feature that lets you integrate your TV with the console so you can access content from both locations from a single program guide. The set up promises to be pretty terrible, but it's a unique feature.
Second, all Xbox One apps are both voice and Kinect gesture-enabled. So you can control your content how you wish to, using these methods or a controller or remote control.
Xbox One apps also offer "media achievements," sort of a debatable feature given the couch potato nature of Xbox fans. Now you can be rewarded for ... sitting on the couch.
And Xbox One entertainment apps can offer exclusive "Snap experiences," which is sort of like using a single HDTV screen as a first- and second-screen experience, side-by-side. That is, you can do things like watch a movie on the left half of the screen and then view information about that movie, perhaps in Internet Explorer, on the right. (Xbox One also supports true second screen experiences via the Xbox SmartGlass app for all major mobile platforms, of course.)
A related Xbox One All-in-One Demo with Yusuf Mehdi and Marc Whitten video does a nice job of showing off how this can all come together.