As part of a special press event on the Xbox campus, Microsoft has just officially announced that they will launch Xbox One — a next generation successor to the popular Xbox 360 video game console — worldwide sometime later this year.
Microsoft’s Mark Whitten described the Xbox One as “connected and ready” system. Under the hood, the console includes 8GB of system memory, a Blu-ray drive, a 500 GB hard drive, USB 3.0 ports, an 8-core CPU, x86 processor architecture, built-in 802.11n Wireless with Wi-Fi Direct, and HDMI in/out ports. Whitten also revealed that the Xbox One’s architecture includes three different operating systems, one of which is the Windows kernel.
Post-conference, Microsoft has confirmed that the x86 processor architecture will make the Xbox One incompatible with current Xbox 360 games.
All this horsepower will allow the next-gen console to run multiple apps simultaneously, in a feature referred to as Xbox One “Snap.” Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi demoed the Snap feature by watching Star Trek and then instantly accessing Internet Explorer to find a trailer for the sequel, look up movie times, and purchase tickets.
Xbox One will include a three pronged approach to user input, with the first being a brand new controller. The new pad is based on the familiar Xbox 360 controller but it has been updated with “40 design innovations,” such as: new “impulse triggers” that incorporate additional feedback, a newly designed “precision” d-pad (thankfully), Wi-Fi Direct and an integrated battery compartment.
The second user input method is an improved Kinect sensor that will be included standard with every Xbox One console. This new sensor features a 1080P HD RGB camera (providing an increased field-of-view, that can recognize both you and your controller), 30 FPS color, and drastically improved voice commands. Xbox One’s Kinect sensor was demoed at the event by using voice commands to instantly switch between live TV, to playing games, watching movies, playing music, and web browsing. The console can also be instantly turned on by saying “Xbox On.”
The third controller method for the Xbox One will be Microsoft’s mobile device application SmartGlass, which will evolve for the next-generation console. Details were slim on how Microsoft plans to improve SmartGalss, however, the company promised that it will make connected devices feel as if they were “built” to work with the upcoming console.
The future of Xbox Live and how it will interact with Xbox One was also discussed at today’s event. Microsoft is planning to bump up the number of servers for Xbox Live from 15,000 to over 300,000 to handle features such as: cloud storage, “dedicated game DVR” to capture live gameplay, a “dynamic and changing” Achievements system (all Gamerscore points earned in Xbox 360 titles will carry over to the new system), improved matchmaking systems, and entertainment features.
Microsoft also noted that Xbox Live will be based on the “same membership you have today,” which seems to indicate that they have no intention of dropping their current paid subscription model.
Xbox One will launch worldwide, “later this year” and Microsoft promised to announce more details about the console at E3 next month.
The Xbox One press conference has concluded, however, you can still watch the full event via our live stream.
[Update] Microsoft’s official images of the Xbox One console, new Kinect sensor, and controller have been added to the gallery at the bottom of this post.