From jester to savior: How the Xbone turned the PlayStation 4 into the white knight of console gaming

ps4The PlayStation 4 was a joke before anyone outside of Sony had even seen the device itself. Sony announced the product during a vaguely sexist multi-hour event but didn’t offer any details about the actual console — when it would be available, how much it would cost, what it actually looked like — besides how it had changed the controller. It was perhaps the greatest non-announcement in recent memory, and it soured expectations for the device’s future, whatever it might look like.

That changed this week, when Sony not only offered the world its first glimpse at the console but also announced a whole slew of features that make the PlayStation 4 more appealing than its competitor, the Xbox One, which was poised to be a hit until Microsoft announced a number of anti-consumer policies (more on those in a moment) that seized gamers in a paroxysm of rage and worked ‘em into a froth of vitriolic forum comments. Sony has managed to turn the laughing stock of the industry into the white knight (well, not literally — every console announced in this generation is black all the way through) that will vanquish the diabolical Microsoft and restore unity to the gaming universe.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One were the same product if you were to view images of each device. Both are all-black behemoths that take the concepts of curves and soft lines and throw them right out the window. They cost about the same — the PlayStation 4 is$399, the Xbox One is $499 — and they both come equipped with motion-sensing peripherals that promise to turn your body into a controller. But the PlayStation 4 has won out in the court of public opinion; not because of its hardware, its platform, or any of the games exclusive to its disc drive, but because Sony has created a more consumer-friendly device than the Xbox One.

xbox-oneI was initially impressed by the Xbox One. Microsoft had created a compelling device that sought to transcend the “videogame console” label and become an all-purpose device meant to turn your television set into a truly “smart” platform. And then Microsoft went ahead and announced that publishers would be able to prevent consumers from re-selling games, that the Xbox One would have to communicate with Microsoft’s servers at least every 24 hours in order to function, and that the device would be more Internet-dependent than I had initially hoped. (This was all especially damning in the wake of PRISM, of which Microsoft is said to have been the first participant.) Microsoft had tried to use a brand and product known mainly as a videogame console as its toehold into the living room, but in doing so it forgot to make a truly great — or even truly consumer-friendly — console in the first place.

The PlayStation 4, and PlayStation platform in general, are also said to be more accommodating to independent developers. Wired reported in April that indie developers are “flocking to Sony and fleeing from Microsoft,” citing the “arduous approvals process” of getting a game into Microsoft’s independent games marketplace and the frustration of dealing with Microsoft in general as problems for small studios. Microsoft is making life harder for both game-makers and consumers.

Sony has side-stepped all of those issues. The PlayStation 4 won’t ask you to connect to Sony’s servers every time you want to play a single-player game with no online component. You can re-sell your games to your friends. You can (hopefully) gyrate and game in front of the PlayStation Move, its camera-equipped peripheral, without worrying about how many of your actions are being conveyed to the NSA. And if you’re an independent developer, you can get your game onto Sony’s platform without the hassle of dealing with Microsoft’s frustrating and arcane processes. Focusing first on being a decent videogame console might just allow Sony to make its way to more television sets than Microsoft, pretty interfaces and connections to the Windows platform be damned.

*****Xbox One PR document leaked*****

Leak recieved from: http://pastebin.com/TpuMDSjv

MICROSOFT CONFIDENTIAL
Top 100 & Supporting E3 Q&A
June 10, 2013

E3 q&a

For inquiries related to Xbox One connectivity requirements, digital licensing/used games or privacy please direct questions to the blogs on these topics:
* Xbox One: A Modern, Connected Device
* How Games Licensing Will Work on Xbox One
* Privacy by Design: How Xbox One and the new Kinect Sensor Put You in Control

To address any questions about details or issues we will not be addressing at E3:
* At E3 we showcased our full lineup of blockbuster games and expanded upon our vision of the Xbox One platform and the amazing, new possibilities it opens up in the living room. We are excited to share more over the coming months, but we don’t have anything further to share at this time. We also have extensive information available on our news blog, Xbox Wire, and we encourage you to check it out for more details and ongoing news.

TOP 100 Q&A

* Games Line-up
* Xbox Live
* General Xbox One Q&A/Specs
* Market Availability
* Pricing
* Backwards Compatibility
* Security/Enforcement
* Family Safety

SUPPORTING Q&A

* Xbox Live Gold
* Television
* All-new Kinect
* Controller & Accessories
* Stingray

XBOX ONE AT E3 KEY MESSAGES
* Xbox will continue to be the best place to play games – led by the biggest exclusives, new IP, and blockbuster franchises that play best on Xbox.
* Xbox One, the ultimate all-in-one entertainment system, makes your games come alive, backed by the new Xbox Live service, innovative multiplayer and social features, and new Kinect that will set the standard for gaming in a new generation.
* Available this November, Xbox One will be the only device that brings together the best of games, sports, TV, and movies, delivering premium content that is more tailored, connected and immersive than ever.

GAMES LINE-UP
Q: What exclusive first-party games are in development, and when will we see them?
A: Today, we kick-started a new era of games and entertainment with a stunning lineup of exclusive blockbuster games for Xbox One, showcasing why it will be the premier platform to experience the future of games, when it launches in markets around the world this November.

Microsoft Studios and the world’s biggest and most renowned publishers, including 343 Industries, Crytek, Turn 10 Studios, Capcom and Insomniac Games, unveiled their blockbuster games lineup for Xbox One, with more exclusive titles than at any time in the history of Xbox. With amazing games like ‘Forza Motorsport 5,’ ‘Freedom,’ ‘Walker,’ “Dakota”, “Below” and ‘Osiris,’ Microsoft Studios showed how Xbox will lead the industry with the biggest exclusives, new IP and blockbuster franchises that will define the next decade of games.

Q: How much will standard retail games for Xbox One cost?
A: Microsoft Studios games on Xbox One will be $59.99 (MSRP).

Q: How many games do you plan to ship at launch?
A: Today Microsoft Studios and the world’s biggest and most renowned publishers, including 343 Industries, Crytek, Turn 10 Studios, Capcom and Insomniac Games, unveiled their blockbuster games lineup for Xbox One, with more exclusive titles than at any time in the history of Xbox. We’re excited to share more about our complete launch portfolio over the coming weeks and months.

XBOX LIVE
Q: What is the new Xbox Live?
A: As we designed Xbox One, we knew we needed to rebuild Xbox Live from the ground up so that we could marry the hardware architecture and the power of the cloud in completely new ways. The new generation of Xbox Live gets to know you and your preferences and puts you at the center of all your games and entertainment. With the evolved Xbox Live, your games and profile are stored in the cloud, so you can access them from any Xbox One console. And of course your Xbox Live Gold membership will work across both Xbox One and Xbox 360.

Q: What new benefits does Xbox Live offer?
A: The new generation of Xbox Live gets to know you and your preferences and puts you at the center of all your games and entertainment. It will make sure your Xbox is always up to date and ready for you, that gaming is better with smart, quick and intuitive multiplayer backed by the new Smart Match system. It adds even more personalization to your TV and entertainment. With the evolved Xbox Live, your games and profile are stored in the cloud, so you can access them from any Xbox One console.

Q: I saw reports stating friends will be unlimited and reports saying the cap is 1,000. Which is correct?
A: We are excited to share we’re expanding the friends list to 1,000 friends, similar to many popular services, and we’ll continue to explore further as our customers’ needs increase.

Q: How do friends lists work when you go back and forth between Xbox One and Xbox 360?
A: Because Xbox Live stores your profile in the cloud, you can access your friends list on any Xbox One and Xbox 360 when you sign in to your profile.

Q: How much cloud space do I get? What is stored in the cloud?
A: Xbox Live offers Xbox One unlimited storage space in the cloud. Every piece of content—your profile, games, Achievements, and entertainment— can be stored and saved in the cloud so you can automatically access it anywhere, anytime, no matter where you are.

Q: Will you continue to charge for Xbox Live Gold memberships?
A: Yes, we will continue to offer an Xbox Live Gold membership with Xbox One. We’re making the new Xbox Live the best place to play games and enjoy entertainment with your friends online.

Q: Do I have to pay to access Xbox Live?
A: No. Similar to Xbox 360, Xbox Live on Xbox One is free to any system owner with a broadband Internet connection and includes access to a robust catalog of gaming content on Xbox Marketplace, movies and TV shows on Xbox Video Marketplace, and personal profiles. For those who are looking for the best value in games and entertainment and want the full Xbox Live connected and social experience, we will continue to offer an Xbox Live Gold membership on Xbox One. If you have an Xbox Live Gold membership today on Xbox 360, it will carry over to Xbox One.

Q: What is the membership/subscription model for Xbox Live on Xbox One?
A: Similar to Xbox 360, Xbox Live on Xbox One is free to any system owner with a broadband Internet connection and includes access to a robust catalog of gaming content on Xbox Marketplace and personal profiles. For those who are looking for the best value in games and entertainment and want the full Xbox Live connected and social experience, we will continue to offer an Xbox Live Gold membership on Xbox One. If you have an Xbox Live Gold membership today on Xbox 360, it will carry over to Xbox One.

Q: Will Xbox Live remain the same on Xbox 360? Do you plan to continue improving the service on Xbox 360?
A: With more than 76 million Xbox 360 consoles sold, we will continue to support Xbox Live on Xbox 360 as an important part of Microsoft’s entertainment offering, adding new games and entertainment content to the service and continuing to support online multiplayer experiences. We are committed to ensuring Xbox Live on Xbox 360 remains one of the best places to play games, meet with friends and enjoy your entertainment.

Q: Can I use my current gamertag on Xbox One and will my Gamerscore and Achievements transfer?
A: Yes. Your current Xbox Live Gamertag will stay with you on Xbox One if you choose to keep it, and your hard-earned Gamerscore and Achievements will indeed carry over from Xbox 360. Gamers can continue to earn achievements by playing their favorite games. -

Q: If I use my current gamertag on my Xbox One, can I still use the same Gamertag on my Xbox 360?
A: Yes. You can use your current Xbox Live Gamertag on Xbox One and Xbox 360.

Q: Are avatars coming to the new console? If so, are you introducing anything new for them?
A: We are making the new system more personal, putting you at the center of all your games, TV and entertainment. To do so, Xbox One leverages your natural identity while continuing to have avatars as an important part of your identity. We will share more in the coming months.

Q: How will avatars work in Xbox One and will my avatar items carry over?
A: Xbox One leverages your natural identity while continuing to have avatars as an important part of your identity. We’ll share more in the coming months.

Q: Will my avatar still be available on Xbox.com?
A: Yes, nothing will change with your avatar on Xbox.com

Q: How many people can be signed in to Xbox Live on a single Xbox One at one time?
A: We made that simple, it’s virtually unlimited. Our vision is to extend the great benefits of Xbox Live Gold membership to anyone in your home.

Q: Will there be beacons on Xbox One?
A: The introduction of Smart Match brings with it an advanced party system, expanding parties from eight to 32 players and putting them at the heart of the system. These parties provide the easiest ways to find people to play with.

Microsoft Points Transition
Q: Are Microsoft Points going away?
A: We continuously listen to feedback from our subscribers, and the ability to conduct transactions in local currency is something that they want. We are excited to announce that as part of the fall 2013 update, Microsoft Points will be retired, and transactions will take place using local currency. This change will make it even easier for Xbox LIVE subscribers to access and enjoy the games, movies, music and other great content they love.

Q: Why are you making this change now? Is it because of negative feedback towards Microsoft Points?
A: The ability to buy and rent content using local currency is something that the Xbox Live community has told us they want. We hope this change will make purchasing the latest games and entertainment on Xbox Live even simpler for subscribers.

Q: When will this happen?
A: The transition from Microsoft Points to local currency for Xbox Live Marketplace transactions will happen in the fall 2013 Xbox Live update. Stay tuned for more information on specific timing.

Q: What happens to my Microsoft Points?
A: When the transition takes place, the balance of Microsoft Points in an account will be retired and the customer will be given an amount in local currency that is equal or greater in Marketplace value. That value will be stored in your account and can be used similar to Microsoft Points to make purchases in the Xbox Live Marketplace.

Q: How will you ensure that the transition to my local currency is equivalent to what I paid for my Microsoft Points?
A: In order to make this a seamless experience for our customers we considered many factors to help ensure our customers received equal or greater Marketplace value in the transition.

Q: Is this transition in preparation for Xbox Live on Xbox One?
A: The ability to buy and rent content using local currency is something that Xbox LIVE subscribers have told us they want and we’re excited to deliver this change for them on Xbox 360 and when we release Xbox One.

Xbox Live Dashboard

Q: What is Snap?
A: Snap lets you do two activities on Xbox One at the same time, on the same screen, like Skype with friends while playing your favorite game or watching the playoffs while managing your fantasy football team.

Q: Can you Snap two games side-by-side?
A: The Xbox One architecture focuses the power of the console’s Xbox operating system on a single game at a time. Side-by-side gameplay will not be supported. However, the new generation of Xbox Live enables switching between Xbox One games in a flash, so no matter what you’re in the mood to play, it’s right there when you want it. Snap lets you do two different activities on Xbox One at the same time, on the same screen, like host a Skype video call with friends while playing your favorite game or watching live TV while Smart Match finds your ultimate multiplayer match-up.

Q: Are you able to personalize the dashboard, per person?
A: Yes. Xbox One understands the unique likes and interests of each person in your family and will serve up relative content including TV, games, music and movies. You will also have frequent updates with live tiles on Skype to view messages and incoming calls.

Q: Will there be advertisements built into the dashboard like Xbox 360? How many?
A: We designed the Xbox One dashboard to make your favorite games and entertainment even more front and center. Advertisements will not be visible on the home screen, so you only see what’s most important to you.

Q: What are you saying to advertisers interested in Xbox One?
A: For advertisers looking to reach their audience today, we offer creative ways to engage with the 48 million active Xbox Live members on Xbox 360, as well as 100 million PCs or devices with Xbox on Windows.

GENERAL XBOX ONE SPECS

Q: What are the specs of Xbox One?
A: Xbox One provides more power than the Xbox 360 to create and consume the greatest games. Inside the box, we’re going from 500 million transistors to 5 billion. We’re going from 512 MB of RAM to 8 GB of RAM. In addition, for every Xbox One in the living room, we put the equivalent of three more in the cloud—so developers can create characters and living worlds that were previously not possible.

Q: How big is the hard drive?
A: Xbox One includes a built in 500GB hard drive and unlimited storage in the cloud.

Q: Can you replace the hard drive on Xbox One?
A: Xbox One includes a built in 500GB hard drive and unlimited storage in the cloud, or you can also add storage as you need it using a USB 3 attached external drive.

Q: Can I use my own hard drive for additional storage?
A: Yes. Xbox One lets you add storage as you need it using a USB 3 attached external drive.

Q: Does it play Blu-ray movies?
A: Yes. Xbox One will play Blu-ray discs.
Q: What chips are in your system?
A: AMD is our primary partner for the custom silicon that makes up our GPU/CPU SOC that is the heart of Xbox One.

Q: Will you support 4K?
A: We are delivering a home entertainment system for the next generation and aspiring to deliver the fidelity of tomorrow. With games, we will have the option of running native 4K or upscaling to 4K.

Q: How will you fully power down Xbox One? Do I have to unplug it or is there a power button?
A: Xbox One has a power button that allows you to turn the system all the way off, using the “Xbox nexus” on the front.

Q: The last time you launched a console you were plagued with hardware problems such as the red ring. What assurances should consumers have that you have fixed your manufacturing problems?
A: There’s no doubt we had some challenges at the launch of Xbox 360. We couldn’t be more proud of the consoles we’ve been building for years. Our track record is proof of the culmination of years of continuous innovation in design, testing and learning. We are confident we are building a high quality product.

MARKET AVAILABILITY
Q: When will Xbox One be released?
A: Xbox One will be available in 21 markets around the world in November 2013

Q: What markets will Xbox One be available when you launch in November?
A: We will launch Xbox One in November in 21 markets around the world including:
* United States
* France
* Netherlands
* Canada
* Germany
* Switzerland
* Mexico
* Spain
* Russia
* Brazil
* Italy
* Sweden
* Australia
* Ireland
* Norway
* New Zealand
* Belgium
* Finland
* United Kingdom
* Austria
* Denmark

Q: What about XX country? When will Xbox One be available there?
A: We plan to launch Xbox One in our other Xbox markets later next year.

Q: Will you be taking pre-orders for Xbox One?
A: To reserve your Xbox One system today, visit www.xbox.com/reserve for participating retailers.

Q: What are the incentives to pre-order Xbox One?
A: To celebrate the launch of Xbox One, we are introducing a special limited edition commemorative bundle in 21 markets around the world. Reserving the commemorative bundle will guarantee that you’ll be able to play the new system on Day One, and each bundle will include an Xbox One in premium black packaging, a limited edition Xbox Day One wireless controller, as well as unique Day One Achievements.

Q: What’s included in the special commemorative SKU?
A: Each bundle will include an Xbox One in premium black packaging, a limited edition Xbox Day One wireless controller, as well as unique Day One Achievements.

Q: What SKUs will be available at launch?
A: Xbox One will launch globally this November, and will include Kinect, a 500GB hard drive and one wireless controller.

Q: Why are you including only one SKU? With Xbox 360 you had a variety of options including hard drive size and with or without Kinect?
A: The all new Kinect is now an essential and integrated part of the platform. By having it as a consistent part of every Xbox One, game and entertainment creators can build experiences that assume the availability of voice, gesture and natural sensing, leading to unrivaled ease of use, premium experiences and interactivity for consumers. In addition, consumers no longer need to worry about the size of their hard drive because Xbox One includes a built in 500GB hard drive and unlimited storage in the cloud. There is also the option to add storage as you need it using a USB 3 attached external drive.

Q: Will there be region restrictions for games on Xbox One?
A: Similar to the movie and music industry, games must meet country-specific regulatory guidelines before they are cleared for sale. We will continue to work with our partners to follow these guidelines with Xbox One.

Q: What about gray markets?
A: Building out distribution and retail channels in new markets is a costly endeavor, and is done based on a variety of factors. While seemingly simple, it often involves regulatory and other local compliance approvals in each market where a console is sold. As such I can’t comment on availability beyond the markets listed in today’s release.

PRICING

Q: How much does Xbox One cost?
A: Xbox One will start at $499, €499 and £429* (MSRP).
* Price for U.K. and European Xbox One launch bundles includes tax.

Q: Why is Xbox One so expensive?
A: We feel Xbox One is competitively priced to support our full lineup of blockbuster games that we showcased here at E3, as well as the amazing, new possibilities the Xbox One platform opens up in the living room.

Q: Why did you make Kinect a requirement? Is the console $100 more expensive than the PS4 because of Kinect?
A: We do not break down pricing by components, but feel Xbox One is competitively priced to support our full lineup of blockbuster games that we showcased here at E3, as well as the amazing, new possibilities the Xbox One platform opens up in the living room.

Q: Will you offer an Xbox Live subscription model for a cheaper console like you currently do with Xbox 360?
A: We are very excited about the interest we’ve seen in terms of consumer engagement with our retail partners after we announced Xbox One, and believe that $499 is a great value given the premium games and entertainment that are delivered in this system. We are always exploring new offers, but have nothing further to share at this time.

Q: Similar to Xbox 360, will you offer special value bundles with Xbox One?
A: At this time we’ve only shared the launch price for Xbox One, and don’t have anything further to share at this time.

Q: What accessories will ship at launch and how much will they cost?
A: We will have more to share about accessories for Xbox One over the coming months.

Q: How much will standard retail games for Xbox One cost?
A: We are excited to share more over the coming months, but we don’t have anything further to share at this time.

BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY
Q: Will Xbox One be backward compatible with existing Xbox 360 games?
A: Xbox One hardware is not compatible with Xbox 360 games. We designed Xbox One to play an entirely new generation of games—games that are architected to take full advantage of state-of-the-art processors and the infinite power of the cloud. We care very much about the investment people have made in Xbox 360 and will continue to support it with a pipeline of new games and new apps well into the future.

Q: What about the digital content such as movies and music that I purchased?
A: Xbox Video content purchased via Xbox Live Marketplace will be available to download and use on Xbox One.

Q: Will I be able to play my digital Xbox 360 games?
A: Xbox One hardware is not compatible with Xbox 360 games. We designed Xbox One to play an entirely new generation of games—games that are architected to take full advantage of state-of-the-art processors and the infinite power of the cloud. We care very much about the investment people have made in Xbox 360 and will continue to support it with a pipeline of new games and new apps well into the future.

Q: Will my existing Xbox 360 accessories work with Xbox One?
A: Xbox One was designed from the ground up with entirely new technology to deliver a new generation of experiences for both games and entertainment. For example, the Wireless Controller will connect to the console using high speed data transfer to enable higher fidelity headset audio and future controller add-on experiences that are not possible with Xbox 360 wireless technology. Additionally, the all new Kinect sensor’s ability to locate the wireless controller is dependent on new technology. In order for Xbox One to deliver robust, meaningful gaming scenarios for all users across all experiences, only Xbox One controllers and accessories will work with the new console.

SECURITY/ENFORCEMENT
Q: Account security and harassment are big issues with Xbox Live. What have you done to improve this with Xbox One?
A: We are completely redesigning Xbox Live to build on what is awesome about the service now, and fix features that we want to improve such as matchmaking and reputation. We place great importance on the safety and security of our customers and we will have more to share about our ongoing work in this space over time.

FAMILY SAFETY
Q: Will Xbox One have parental controls?
A: We have a strong track record of building some of the most advanced family settings in the entertainment industry and Xbox One will be no different. We will have more to share about specific family settings and features over time.

SUPPORTING E3 Q&A

XBOX LIVE GOLD
Q: Will I need Xbox Live Gold to access entertainment apps on Xbox One?
A: Like Xbox 360, some applications will be available to all Xbox Live members, such as Xbox Video, while others will require an Xbox Live Gold membership.

Q: Will my current Xbox Live Gold membership work with Xbox One or will I have to buy a new one?
A: You do not need to buy a new Xbox Live Gold membership. Your current membership will work on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Q: How is Xbox Live Gold membership different on Xbox One? What is included in the membership?
A: An Xbox Live Gold membership offers a premium interactive entertainment service on Xbox One that spans across games, TV shows and movies, music, sports and more. Xbox Live Gold provides the best multiplayer gaming experience. As a Gold member, gamers will get premier member benefits including fast matchmaking, instant switching between games and entertainment and the ability to capture, edit and share gameplay via Game DVR, Upload Studio and Twitch. Xbox Live Gold also offers an all in one entertainment experience with an enhanced with a programming guide, Skype video and voice calling and intuitive browse and search capabilities powered by Kinect.

We’re also announcing today a new benefit for Gold membership on Xbox One is the ability for anyone in your home to access many Xbox Live Gold benefits on your Xbox One at no additional cost. And the primary Xbox Live Gold membership travels with you to any Xbox One system.

Q: How much will Xbox Live Gold cost on Xbox One?
A: Xbox Live Gold will remain the same price starting at $5 per month (USD) on Xbox One, which your Gold membership works on any Xbox One and Xbox 360 anyone in your home can access most Gold membership benefits at no additional cost.

Q: Will Xbox Live on Xbox One have a Silver membership offer, and if so, what benefits does this membership tier provide?
A: Xbox Live is free to any system owner with a broadband Internet connection and includes access to a robust catalog of gaming content on Xbox Marketplace, movies and TV shows on Xbox Video, personal profiles and Achievements and in certain regions, HDMI pass-through will enable you to watch live TV from your cable, telco or satellite set-top box through your Xbox One. You can also turn your smart device into the ultimate companion with Xbox SmartGlass.

Q: Can a household purchase one Xbox Live Gold subscription and share between multiple family members? Do you have a Family offering?
A: With the purchase of Xbox Live Gold on any Xbox One anyone in your home can access Xbox Live Gold benefits on your Xbox One at no additional cost.

Q: Does the Xbox Live Gold extension to others in the home work for Xbox 360? Is this a way to drive customers to purchase Xbox One?
A: No. Xbox Live Gold membership remains the same on Xbox 360 and will continue to offer members access to the best online gaming service and entertainment network in the industry.

Q: Did you discontinue the Xbox Live Gold Family Pack because of the new Xbox Live Gold offering?
A: We’re continually evolving our products and services and are excited to extend Xbox Live Gold to anyone in the home on Xbox One.

Q: If I have one Xbox Live Gold membership, can I use it for both Xbox One and Xbox 360?
A: Yes. Xbox Live Gold membership will work on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Q: How do I purchase Xbox Live Gold on Xbox One?
A: Xbox One owners will be able to purchase 12-month and 3-month Xbox Live Gold memberships at major retail stores and online at Xbox.com.

Q: Will you offer a free trial of Xbox Live Gold when I purchase an Xbox One console?
A: A one-month Xbox Live Gold membership is included for free with every Xbox One purchase.

Entertainment Apps
Q: Will entertainment content be region specific?
A: Available content and features vary across regions. We will have more to share regarding regional availability at a later time. –

Q: What will happen to current apps on Xbox 360?
A: Existing entertainment apps will remain on Xbox 360, and current and future partners will be able to create new apps for Xbox 360. With more than 76 million Xbox 360 consoles sold, we will continue to support Xbox 360 as an important part of Microsoft’s entertainment offering – that includes adding new content to the service and ensuring Xbox Live on Xbox 360 remains one of the best places to play games and enjoy your favorite entertainment.

Q: Can partners continue to release new apps on Xbox 360 after Xbox One launches?
A: Yes. We will continue to support Xbox 360 as an important part of Microsoft’s entertainment offering ensuring Xbox Live on Xbox 360 remains one of the best places to play games and enjoy your entertainment.

Q: Why should I use Xbox One to watch entertainment if there is historically more content on Xbox 360?
A: As with any new system, we understand that Xbox One will not launch with the full catalogue of entertainment content that the Xbox 360 platform has built up over the past decade. However, Xbox One will bring you closer to the entertainment that is available. Xbox One has the ability combine your favorite TV channels, on-demand content and the entertainment apps that are available into one experience. Also, because Xbox Live is powered by the cloud, you can jump back and forth between games, TV, music and apps instantly and effortlessly and Snap apps side-by-side to do two things at once.

Q: Can Xbox One access the Web? Will you have an IE app?
A: We will offer Internet Explorer for Xbox One. Use your voice to browse your favorite sites with ease or use Xbox SmartGlass on your phone or tablet to control your experience.

Online Multiplayer Gaming
Q: Can I play online multiplayer with players still using an Xbox 360?
A: No. Because Xbox One hardware and the new services of Xbox Live were designed to power next generation experiences (not compatible with Xbox 360), multiplayer cross generation will not be available to ensure the best possible experience for all gamers.

Q: How many players can access a game simultaneously?
A: We wanted to provide game developers the most flexible and powerful multiplayer system possible, even providing them with free cloud computing power. The number of players that can access a game simultaneously are limited only by how the game is designed.

Q: What is Smart Match? How is this different than traditional matchmaking?
A: Smart Match on Xbox One is matchmaking evolved. It’s smarter, faster and optimized to help you play with exactly the people you want, when you want. The smarter, asynchronous matchmaking system means no more waiting in lobbies as your console is your lobby. Your Xbox Live reputation plays a valuable role, rewarding healthy participation while helping eliminate troublemakers and cheaters.

Q: How does the new reputation system work? Do players take a more active role in policing or is this a behavior tracking algorithm?
A: We’ve updated the algorithms for monitoring behavior on the system, expanded scoring elements, engaged our enforcement team and created requirements for games to take reputation into account. The reputation system is built on a model that accounts for how a player behaves and whether they positively or negatively affect others. As long as other players or the titles are not reporting a player, you will maintain a positive reputation.

Q: How can gamers get involved in monitoring or regulating the Xbox Live community?
A: Xbox Live members can provide positive feedback on good community members or block or report violators. Each member now has a role in marshaling an advantageous Xbox Live ecosystem for everyone. Similarly, game titles will be able to report community violations as well.

Q: What is “reputation” and what does it mean for gamers?
A: Your Xbox Live reputation plays a valuable role rewarding healthy participation while reducing troublemakers and cheaters. A unified system across Xbox Live and all of your games allow you to have much more control over who you play with. The better your reputation, the more people will want to play with you.

Q: How can you fix your reputation if you’re flagged with a negative reputation?
A: The easiest way to avoid a negative reputation score is be a positive and healthy member of Xbox Live. Xbox Live members will receive infraction warnings if their reputation is flagged as unsportsmanlike or derogatory. These members may be able to reverse their negative reputation by following the Xbox Live guidelines.

Q: What’s the difference between Party Chat and Game Chat?
A: Party chat exists only between you and your designated friends that you invite into a party. Game chat is established for all players involved in a multiplayer engagement. The new party system also helps you seamlessly transition back and forth between Party Chat and Game Chat.

Q: Can I party chat or game chat between Xbox One and Xbox 360 Live users?
A: No. Because the new services of Xbox Live and the all new Kinect were designed to power next generation experiences (not compatible with Xbox 360), party chat and game chat will not be available between Xbox One and Xbox 360 Live members.

Q: What’s a “party”?
A: A party is the core unit of online multiplayer gaming on Xbox One. You have complete control over the group by creating private sessions or inviting friends of friends to join.

Q: What’s a “party scout”?
A: A party scout sets up and manages parties for a group reducing the amount of waiting time for the other party members.

Q: What’s new with Achievements on Xbox One?
A: New Achievements on Xbox One will become dynamic and changing. They tell your personal story of how you play, not just what you’ve done and will continue to reward players in new ways for skill, participation and time-based challenges.

Q: What’s Game DVR?
A: With Game DVR, it’s easy to capture your greatest game moments, then share them with your friends. We will also provide consumers with tools to edit and create videos, and because each capture is automatically tagged with contextual game data, game creators will be able to use the captured clips in-game. Xbox One keeps a rolling record of your most recent gameplay, so you can share replays with friends or check out your friends’ replays of their best move.

Q: Where can I share my Game DVR clips?
A: Game DVR clips can be added to your Xbox Live profile and shared with friends.

Q: What is Upload?
A: Upload* is a new gaming and entertainment experience in Xbox One that, by making use of our Game DVR functionality, enables users to show off many of their greatest gaming moments in their own personal way. With Upload, users not only get a powerful, easy to use video editing tool, the Upload Studio, but also a destination where users can access their own content and see what others have created.
*Available with supported games

Q: Is this app behind Xbox Live Gold?
A: With Xbox Live on Xbox One, we deliver a premium entertainment service you can’t find anywhere else, providing interactive experiences that span across games, TV shows and movies, music, sports and more. This includes Upload Studio, which will be available to all Xbox Live Gold members.

Q: What kinds of editing features does Upload Studio have?
A: Upload Studio allows you to personalize your video clips using a suite of editing tools, including clipping, voice over, slow motion, picture in picture, skins, bookends, some music and others. Players will also be able to choose from a selection of editing templates available to them in Upload Studio.

Q: What is Twitch on Xbox One?
A: With our exclusive partnership with Twitch, you can broadcast your Game DVR highlights to all corners of the globe, instantly stream your gameplay on Twitch, one of the world’s largest platforms for the live streaming of games and game highlights.

Q: Where will Upload be available?
A: Upload and Upload Studio will be available in all countries where the Xbox Live service is available.

Xbox Live Games (Digital)
Q: Will arcade games be available on Xbox One at launch?
A: Yes, arcade games will be available on Xbox One at launch.

Q: How many arcade titles will be available on Xbox One at launch?
A: We look forward to sharing more details at a later time.

Q: If I purchased an arcade game on Xbox 360, will I be able to play it on Xbox One?
A: We saw great consumer response to digital titles on Xbox 360, which can continue to be played on Xbox 360 consoles. We are exploring ways to bring gamers’ favorite content to Xbox One, but do not have any additional information to announce at this time.

Q: What is your free to play strategy?
A: We are proud to have great free to play experiences on for Xbox Live Gold Xbox 360 and are exploring a variety of business models for games on Xbox One.

TELEVISION
Q: Do I need to have a specific cable or satellite TV provider to watch live TV on Xbox One?
A: Our goal is to enable live TV through Xbox One in every way that it is delivered throughout the world, whether that’s television service providers, over the air or over the Internet, or HDMI-in via a set top box (as is the case with many providers in the US). The delivery of TV is complex and we are working through the many technologies and policies around the world to make live TV available to all markets where Xbox One is available.

Q: Who are TV broadcast partners for Xbox One? Why haven’t more Xbox 360 TV partners made the move to Xbox One?
A: We’re in continued discussions with a broad set of content providers and owners but we don’t have anything to announce at this time.

Q: What is HDMI pass-through and how does it work?
A: HDMI pass-through enables you to watch live TV from your cable or satellite set-top box through your Xbox One, taking the pain out of switching inputs. HDMI pass-through is a common industry term for relaying the signal from an HDMI source device to a TV or other display device. Xbox One will feature this capability, which will ultimately allow Xbox One to serve is your all-in-one entertainment system.

Q: Do I need to buy a separate box in order to watch live TV on Xbox One?
A: No, HDMI pass-through enables you to watch live TV from your cable or satellite set-top box through your Xbox One.

Q: Is the HDMI pass-through function compatible with set top boxes used by broadcasters in my market? E.g. HDCP protection, etc.
A: Xbox One is HDMI certified, so as long as the stream is HDCP protected (as any HDMI standard compliant device must be) Xbox One will be able to pass that signal through.

Q: Will Microsoft be working with local broadcasters to retrieve the program schedules shown in the OneGuide?
A: Information that appears in the OneGuide has been created and licensed by Xbox, and works in conjunction with video services that consumers subscribe to from cable and satellite companies. Our goal is to ensure that information in the OneGuide accurately reflects local programming in any region where OneGuide is available.

Q: Will I be able to access DVR content from my cable box on my Xbox One console?
A: On your Xbox One console you will be able to access and use your cable or satellite set-top box DVR service via HDMI pass-through. We look forward to sharing additional details about TV experiences as we get closer to launch.

Q: Does Xbox One have a built-in DVR?
A: No, at launch Xbox One will not provide any built-in DVR capabilities. On your Xbox One console you will be able to access and use your cable or satellite set-top box DVR service via HDMI pass-through. We look forward to sharing additional details about TV experiences as we get closer to launch.

Q: Doesn’t HDMI pass-through use MVPDs’ services without their approval?
A: HDMI pass-through is a widely known technology and is used in many audio-video receivers to pass content from a set top box through to a television. Xbox One functions similarly, providing the benefits of an all-in-one entertainment device.

Q: Does Xbox One replace cable subscribers’ cable boxes?
A: No. To access live TV content from many of the top networks in the U.S., for example, consumers still need a cable, telco or satellite subscription. Xbox One provides a complementary service and wide selection when it comes to your digital entertainment. We remain focused on bringing your favorite entertainment to live with unique interactive experiences. Xbox One lets you to view all your channels from your television service provider, while eliminating the need to switch between inputs.

Q: Can cable subscribers use Kinect to control their cable box with their voice and gestures?
A: Yes, with Xbox One and OneGuide you can use Kinect to change channels or search for your favorite channels with your voice or gesture if your Xbox One is connected to your cable or satellite set-top-box.
For international press: Some features will only be available in the US at launch.

Q: Do you need agreements with MVPDs to deliver live TV through Xbox One?
A: We will share more details about our live TV experiences as we get closer to launch.

Q: Do you need agreements to deliver a fully integrated Xbox Programming Guide?
A: Yes, we license Xbox Programming Guide data from a third-party provider.

Q: Do you need agreements for voice control to work with live TV?
A: No. Connect your cable or satellite box from your television service provider to your Xbox One via HDMI-in to watch TV through your Xbox.

Q: How will you deliver live TV in Europe and the rest of the world?
A: Consumers around the globe access live TV in their homes a number of different ways. We’re focused on delivering TV integration solutions that complement existing consumer setups starting first with HDMI pass-through. We’ll continue to explore options for adding more TV experiences over time. Microsoft is committed to bringing live TV through various solutions to all the markets where the new Xbox will be available, but we have nothing further to announce at this time.

Q: Do you have an “over the air” OTA plan?
A: Yes. Our vision is to enable live TV through Xbox One in every way that it is delivered throughout the world, whether that’s television service providers, over the air, or over the Internet. Unlike games where you can create a single technology that largely works around the world, the delivery of TV is very complex and we are working through the various technologies and policies around the world in order to make live TV available to all markets where Xbox One is available. This is a priority for us and we’ll share more details about our plans for live TV delivery over time.

Q: What’s “Trending”? How is this content aggregated?
A: As Xbox One delivers deep social integration and a modern architecture, it can also view how games, movies and TV shows are trending with the Xbox community. With Trending, you will be able to see an up-to-the minute view of what TV shows are most popular on Xbox LIVE.

KINECT
Q: Why require Kinect with every Xbox One?
A: The all new Kinect is now an essential and integrated part of the platform. By having it as a consistent part of every Xbox One, game and entertainment creators can build experiences that assume the availability of voice, gesture and natural sensing, leading to unrivaled ease of use, premium experiences and interactivity for consumers.

Q: How much more powerful is the new Kinect sensor?
A: We built the new Kinect from the ground up with entirely new technology to increase its performance compared to Kinect for Xbox 360. The Kinect sensor includes improvements in the fidelity of depth vision for better precision in gameplay, 1080P video quality for improved video communication via Skype, an enlarged field of view allowing more players to get in on the fun, and dramatically improved audio fidelity enabling better response to speech commands and cutting through room noise over Kinect for Xbox 360.

Q: Which countries will receive voice at launch?
A: Our vision is to bring conversational voice control and voice search to every country where we sell Xbox. Today on Xbox 360, we offer voice control and voice search in 13 countries, and we’re working hard to bring voice to new countries. We’ll share specific details for conversational voice control and voice search as we get closer to launch.
Voice Control and voice search on 360: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Australia, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Ireland, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Netherlands (voice control only), Austria (voice search only)

Q: Can I use the Kinect for Xbox 360 sensor I already have for Xbox One?
A: No. We designed the new Kinect sensor and console to work seamlessly together. The new sensor includes revolutionary technology giving it 10 times the performance of Kinect for Xbox 360. With features like full 1080p HD video, an improved microphone array and audio processing for accurate voice control in your living room, the new Kinect is part of what marks a new generation of games, TV and entertainment.

Q: Will there be gesture-based games?
A: Xbox One is built from the ground up with the new Kinect sensor integrated into the system. Controller-free technology is one of many ways to interact with both games and entertainment, including a best in class controller, voice, gesture, SmartGlass, etc. We don’t envision a world in which we have gesture-based and controller-based games, but rather a world in which the gamer is at the center of an immersive, cinematic experience, interacting with their content through whatever combination of user inputs makes the most sense.

Q: What does “IR built in” mean for user experience?
A: With IR built in, the new Kinect sensor is able to identify your body movement, recognize you and even respond to your voice in a more accurate way than ever before. With an HD camera, wider field of view, increased precision and speed, and the addition of Skype to our platform, the new Kinect will provide game creators a richer canvas on which to create.

Q: Do you have plans to integrate Kinect into Windows?
A: We don’t have any details to share about future integration today. We’ll have more to share on that soon.

Q: Are there playspace requirements for the new Kinect?
A: The new Kinect offers a 60 percent increase in field of view, which enables a wider play space, the ability to play closer to the sensor and better tracking of players of a variety of heights in a wide variety of living room environment from large western living rooms, to smaller spaces typical Europe and Asia.

CONTROLLER & ACCESSORIES
Q: Will the Wireless Controller be included with Xbox One as a pack-in accessory?
A: All Xbox One consoles will ship with both the new controller and the new Kinect.

Q: Why couldn’t XXX be forward compatible?
A: Wireless controllers: To help make the gaming experiences on Xbox One truly next generation, we created a new wireless controller that makes gaming more immersive, comfortable, and precise. This new controller will include Impulse Triggers for more immersive gaming. The wireless communication method between the Xbox One console and the Wireless Controller has been improved to allow for higher speed data transfer. This is to deliver clearer audio for wired chat headsets and next-generation controller add-ons that will need high wireless bandwidth. Xbox 360 controllers do not have compatible wireless communication technology, Impulse Triggers, and other new features that are needed to have a complete experience on the newly designed Xbox One platform.

Headsets: The Wireless Controller has been redesigned to allow for higher data transfer speed between the controller and the console. This also required creating a new expansion port design for headsets and future controller add-on devices which is different from a standard audio plug input. Xbox plans to develop solutions in the near future to allow consumers to connect many brands of wired gaming headsets to the Wireless Controller for gaming and chat audio.

Charging solutions: The design of the Xbox One Wireless Controller lets AA batteries or the new Play and Charge Kit’s lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack fit inside the body of the controller. This gives users more space for their hands to fit comfortably around the controller. The Xbox 360 rechargeable battery pack, however, will not fit inside the new Xbox One Wireless Controller given the controller’s new shape. The charging cable connection to the Xbox One Wireless Controller is also different. The new cable connects to the controller with a Micro-USB connection which is a more universal design standard. The Xbox 360 Play and Charge Kit’s cable features a different connector type that is not compatible with the Micro-USB controller port.

Q: Will my wired 3PP accessories (controller) work on Xbox One?
A: Today we’re here to talk about Xbox One and the best in class games and entertainment systems we announced on stage Monday. We’ll share more details about accessory compatibility closer to launch.

Q: Can I use my wired 3PP headset with the Xbox One controller?
A: The Wireless Controller has been redesigned to allow for higher data transfer speed between the controller and the console. This also required creating a new expansion port design for headsets and future controller add-on devices which is different from a standard audio plug input. Xbox plans to develop solutions in the near future to allow consumers to connect many brands of wired gaming headsets to the Wireless Controller for gaming and chat audio.

Q: What is the expected battery life of my controller?
A: We are still hard at work product testing and will have more to share at a later time.

Q: Will there be a remote control for Xbox One? / Why is there not a remote for launch?
A: We have several input methods for Xbox One including the Wireless Controller, Kinect voice navigation (in supported markets), and compatible devices with the Xbox SmartGlass app. We will not have a remote control for launch but we are working on remote control for the future and will share more details at a later time. We will also publish our Xbox One infrared remote control codes at launch for existing 3rd party universal remotes to use.

Q: Will you or 3P be making stereo headsets?
A: We are working with 3rd party headset manufacturers to create new headsets that will take full advantage of the Xbox One technology. We will share more details in the future. [Branden Powell to share more details]

Q: Will Xbox One Accessories work with other Microsoft devices such as Windows 8, Windows Phone, Surface, etc?
A: We are evaluating how Xbox One accessories work with Windows devices, but have nothing to announce at this time.

Q: Lay it out for me. What accessories will be available when Xbox One launches?
A: For 1st party accessories, we will have the Wireless Controller, Chat Headset, Play & Charge Kit, and Wireless Controller + Play & Charge Kit bundle. [Please contact Branden Powell for 3rd party accessories]

Q: How many accessories can be connected to Xbox One simultaneously?
A: You will be able to connect at least as many accessories as we did with Xbox 360, if not more. The details on this are still be worked out.

Q: Will you offer an official Xbox HDMI cable? (If so, will it be bundled with Xbox One?)
A: There will be an HDMI cable that comes bundled with the console.

Wireless Controller:
Q: Is the new Xbox One Wireless Controller backward compatible with Xbox 360?
A: No, the new Xbox One Wireless Controller will not work with Xbox 360. The controller features new wireless technology and next-generation features that are not compatible with Xbox 360.

Q: Can I take this controller to my friend’s house and pair it with his/her console as well?
A: Yes, the Wireless Controller can work on any Xbox One console. Controllers that come with the console are preset at the factory to work with that particular console. To pair the controller with a new console, simply make sure both your controller and console are on and press the console’s power button. If necessary, press the enrollment button on the front of your controller.

Q: Is there anything different between the controller that is bundled with the console and the standalone version?
A: No, the standalone wireless controller is functionally the same as the one that comes with the standard console. Special Edition consoles may have controllers that feature unique colors or finishes, but are functionally the same.

Q: Will other manufacturers be making Wireless Controllers for Xbox One?
A: No. Due to wireless security and quality reasons, the only Wireless Controller that you can use with Xbox One will be 1st party Wireless Controllers. This is consistent with the Wireless Controller policy for Xbox 360.

Q: Can accessories which connect directly to the Xbox 360 controller (e.g. Chatpad, wired headset, battery pack) be used with the Xbox One controller?
A: No. We are working on ways to connect wired headsets through a headset adapter device. More details on that will be shared at a later time.

Q: With the improved experience, how does Xbox One controller battery life compare with the Xbox 360 controller?
A: We are still working on that and have no details to share at this time.

Q: Will rechargeable battery packs or charging accessories be available at launch? (If not, why not?)
A: Yes. The Play & Charge Kit will be available at launch.

Q: Will you offer wired controllers for LAN parties and other scenarios where multiple consoles are in close proximity? (If not, why not?)
A: When the Wireless Controller is plugged into the console using a USB to Micro-USB cable, the wireless radio is disabled and wireless controller will function as a wired controller. Communication and power will run through the cable.

Q: Will gamers with accessibility concerns be able to program the Microsoft-manufactured controller to suit their needs?
A: Controller functions or buttons cannot be programmed by the user.

Q: How many controllers can be used with the new system simultaneously?
A: If you connect just Wireless Controllers with no add-ons such as Chat Headsets, you can connect at least eight controllers simultaneously.

Q: Are the two buttons in the middle of the controller still the back and start buttons, or do they have different functionality?
A: The two buttons in the middle of the Wireless Controller are Menu and View buttons. The Menu button (on the right) will bring up context-specific menus, which game and app developers can design to enhance the user experience. The Menu button could also be used in scenarios such as bringing up in-game menus, showing video playback options, and accessing commands on the console’s user interface. The View button (on the left) will change views or provide more information in games and apps. The function of the View button will be driven by developers. Possible uses of the View button include viewing a map during a role playing game, displaying a leaderboard in a first person shooter, and enhancing the navigation of the console’s user interface.

Q: With the addition of trigger rumble, how do you think the controller battery life will be in comparison to the Xbox 360 gamepad?
A: We are still hard at work product testing and will have more to share at a later time.

STINGRAY Q&A
Q: What is the new Xbox 360 you unveiled at E3 (Stingray)?
A: Today, we unveiled the redesigned Xbox 360. It offers an amazing new design and form factor that brings Xbox 360 in line with the look and feel of the Xbox One family. We see this as another indication in our investment and long-term vision for Xbox 360 and its millions of owners worldwide.

Q: When will the redesigned Xbox 360 be available in XYZ country?
A: It will ship in the U.S., UK, Ireland, Canada, and Australia starting Tuesday, June 11. It will launch in other regions this fall, with exact dates to be confirmed later.

Q: Was this a cost saving move for Microsoft?
A: No, we redesigned Xbox 360 to give it a fresh new design and a similar look and feel to Xbox One. Although we’re very excited about Xbox One, we remain dedicated to Xbox 360 now and for years to come.

Q: What is the price of the redesigned Xbox 360? Are you dropping the price of Xbox 360?
A: The redesigned Xbox 360 will be available for the same great price and available in the same value-packed editions: 4GB, 250GB and 4GB Kinect bundle.

Q: Why have you not/do you not plan to drop prices on Xbox 360?
A: Xbox 360 continues to be a great value with a full gaming and entertainment experience starting at $199 (MSRP), which includes access to the largest portfolio of games available and an amazing array of entertainment services.

Q: What content are you launching on 360 to support the ecosystem?
A: We are expecting some of the greatest blockbusters of 2013 and 2014 to come out on Xbox 360 such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty Ghosts, Madden 25 and FIFA 14 and this will add to the largest game portfolio available. This is in addition to an expanding Platinum Hits selection that will start at $14.99 (ERP) starting in September. Our Xbox Live service will continue to expand with more apps to expand the fantastic entertainment experience and we will continue to have an amazing multi-player experience.

Q: Is the warranty changing on this Xbox 360?
A: The warranty will remain the same. Xbox 360 has always included a standard manufacturer’s warranty in each region, including a one-year limited warranty in the U.S. Please check with your local retailer for retailer-specific warranties.

Q: What’s different about the power and eject buttons on the redesigned Xbox 360?
A: The new power and disc eject buttons work with push buttons vs. capacity touch that was on the previous Xbox 360.

Q: Why did you remove the audio out/SPDIF functionality on the redesigned Xbox 360?
A: Most consumers are able to use their HDMI cable for their audio out needs so we opted to remove the audio out/SPDIF port.

Q: Why did you replace the proprietary AVIP composite cable with the standard 3.5MM A/V Cable?
A: We decided to use the 3.5MM jack to provide users with more cable options instead of limiting users to just the Xbox propriety cable used in the past. The 3.5MM cables are commonly used for many household uses and can be easily found in retail stores.

MICROSOFT CONFIDENTIAL

PS4 Games Demoed on PS4 Dev Kits Says Blow, Xbox One Games Spotted Running on PCs With Nvidia Cards

It just keeps getting worse for Microsoft: After facing a consumer backlash over DRM, a bizarrely high price and no love on Amazon, a new scandal has emerged.

Earlier today, CinemaBlend commented on the fact that a broken Xbox One game returned to the Windows 7 home screen, and that, in a pic we could see that it was running on a Nvidia 700 series GTX GPU (the Xbox One uses AMD). The Battlefield 4 demo ‘running on Xbox One’ was also spotted to include the PC command ‘backspace’. While it sounded terrible – these are meant to be console games, CinemaBlend tried to put things into perspective:

Truth be told, none of this should be a surprise to most people given that all E3 demos run their games on high-end PCs; it’s a smoke and mirrors circus to sell the idea of the game, sort of like how pro wrestling sells the idea of fighting despite being scripted. We should all be used to it by now and it’s just common practice [from most studios] given that the devkits or comparable specs aren’t usually finalized at this point.

Turns out, however, that they are wrong. Developer of upcoming PS4/PC/iOS title The Witness Jonathan Blow tweeted (tweets ordered for clarity):

It is not true as the article says that “all E3 demos run on hi-end PCs”. The Witness was running on PS4 dev hardware, and it looked to me like all the other PS4 games were running on dev kits as well.

Dev hardware is the hardware that will be in the final retail box, but in a less consumer-oriented package.

Dev kits almost always have more RAM yeah. Better CPU+GPU, no…

All the indies I know were running on the PS4.

We worked very hard to get our game running on the actual PS4 hardware and operating system in time for the show. As did many other devs.

Sucker Punch’s Jason Connell added:

Yup, we were definitely on a dev kit. [For inFamous: Second Son]

Blow commented:

That is kind of crazy considering consoles are supposed to be on the shelves with these games in 5-6 months.

During Microsoft’s press show I was impressed by how good the games looked given the console’s specs. But if they weren’t running on those specs then it becomes pretty questionable.

I actually don’t want XB1 to fail because we need competition to keep things healthy.

And finally:

I’m seeing a lot of forum comments saying “it is no big deal, most E3 demos are on PCs”. False. I wonder if this is “reputation management”.

This whole thing sounds utterly bizarre: has Microsoft been essentially lying to journalists and viewers with games running on completely different hardware? Aliens: Colonial Marines drew intense criticism after it was revealed that journalists played a better version of the game than was actually released, and it’s hard not to feel deja vu.

Could Sony capitalize off of the fact that the PS4 seems far more along? Is Microsoft hiding yet another thing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Why does Microsoft think the Xbone makes sense?

Last week’s Xbox One reveal was met with a lot of confusion by many, and resulted in heated arguments over the course of the week. Gamers were concerned with the apparent focus on cable TV and sports, and many were upset by the inherent digital rights management (DRM) and privacy implications of the console’s many reported features.

Microsoft seemed genuinely bewildered.

There were many conflicting PR responses, sometimes made by the same person within the same day. Microsoft’s general attitude towards some of the concerns seemed to be “Why would you even be bothered by that?”, as if they hadn’t even thought it would be an issue. Clearly many people agreed that there were issues, but why wasn’t Microsoft able to foresee this? Or even better, did they care?

Before answering that question, we need to take a look into the recent history of Microsoft. What major Microsoft products have been released in the past two years? Windows 8 and the Surface. As an avid follower of Microsoft’s all office and business products, I’ve tried out most pre-release versions of Windows 8 and switched to it not too far from release, and I pre-ordered the Surface Pro, and use it every day. But both of those products are deeply flawed. The mentality that led to their creation and their faults can be traced back even further.

zune1

The Zune was Microsoft’s “me too” to the growing popularity of the iPod. I’ve had several Zunes, and while they were pretty good music players, they were definitely a step back from Apple’s products in every sense but audio quality. The software used to sync a Zune to your computer was awful and unintuitive, and it didn’t share any UI design patterns with any other Microsoft products. It was as if they contracted an unrelated company to build a competitor for the iPod so they can also get a share of the growing MP3 player craze. But it wasn’t a competitive product. It seemed to fulfill the same role, but other than that, it was solving problems nobody had and didn’t have the vision and drive that made Apple’s iPod so successful.

Fast forward a few years, Microsoft introduced their competitor to Google’s search engine, Bing. On many internet circles, Bing is the punchline to jokes, basically a laughing stock. It seemed to compete with Google, but it didn’t have the creativity that made Google’s search algorithm work so well. In fact, Google proved that Bing steals search results from them. Microsoft later published a website called “Bing it On”, inviting users to compare search results from both engines and choose which is best, claiming “[people] picked Bing web search results over Google nearly 2 to 1 in blind comparison tests”, whereas the general consensus seems otherwise; and Bing’s experimental results are not available.

However, if you’ve watched TV shows on CW or USA recently, you might have noticed that characters in shows very visibly use Bing all the time, and the phrase “Bing it!” has been used in place of “Google it!”, as if anyone in real life actually uses that. Similarly, Internet Explorer has been on the receiving end of many a joke, and while it has gotten better over the years with features that other browsers have had for a while finally being integrated; it’s still nowhere near as convenient to use. Is the picture starting to appear? It’s a common Microsoft trend to dump tons of money into advertising their product to make it seem competitive.

The Surface is also an awkward product. It’s too heavy and short on battery life to be a tablet, and too small and unstable to use as a laptop. It’s solving a problem that nobody has while trying to compete with Apple’s iPad. Similarly with Windows 8, it’s a tablet-focused OS that alienates desktop users while being unwieldy to use on a tablet due to being based on a desktop OS. Microsoft’s output in the recent years has been a constant stream of “You want this, don’t you?” products that have constantly been met with bewilderment from their loyal consumers. Finally coming to the topic of the Xbox One, this phenomenon seems to be repeating.

Microsoft_Surface_RT

Microsoft have come out and said that “the custom of gamers is already taken as granted. [The reveal] will be pushing the One to other types of buyers, those not already considered dominated.” But considering the Xbox 360 was outsold by the Wii and is currently tied with the PS3, are they really “dominating” gamers? Perhaps, or perhaps not. But it’s clear that this is yet again an instance of Microsoft telling the consumer what they need, despite what the consumer thinks they need.

Is that really the case, though? It’s all hidden in the crucial word that most people seem to have missed from the press conference: “partners.” The Xbox One is supported by many partners, like CBS, ESPN, EA. Did you notice that during the reveal, most footage shown was from CBS properties? And the Kinect being always-on comes into play here. The current trend in academia and industry is focused on “big data,” i.e. handling and interpreting very large amounts of data, usually with the purpose of targeting advertisements.

Considering Microsoft are partnering with many content publishers, it would make sense that they are going to use all that Kinect data along with people’s purchases to deliver more appropriate advertisements. They have registered several patents focused on delivering advertisements with the Kinect. Basically, the Xbox One will be an excellent vehicle for Microsoft to make money from their partners, and that was what most of the reveal conference was about.

A large problem is that they have alienated a significant portion of their fanbase with this reveal. They are looking to break big into the cable TV and sports markets, but they have no brand loyalty there, and they are competing with Apple and Google as before. Yet again we see Microsoft’s misguided and disingenuine policy of trying to appeal to a popular market dominated by others by not really appealing to that market. The problem is that since they are entering a new area, they need to earn the trust of those consumers (presumably by dumping exorbitant amounts of money into advertising). Not only that, by trying to “me too” a new market that their core audience cares about, they will also be in the position to win back their own audience too. They are relying on their ad delivery and partnerships to not fail.

Is that to say the Xbox One will not be a good gaming console? Not necessarily. Despite Sony and Nintendo having arguably more (and diversified) exclusive titles, Microsoft are yet again trying to solve this problem by throwing money at it. They’ve contracted Crytek, Black Tusk Studios, and Respawn Entertainment to come up with AAA titles to rival other exclusive franchises. It remains to be seen whether these games will succeed in that endeavor, but Microsoft have themselves said that being a top end gaming machine is no longer their sole concern. Following the path laid by Windows 8 and the Surface, they are “reinventing” their core products. Most likely, the Xbox One will do fine in terms of gaming because most “big” games are cross-platform.

However, Google’s Google TV has not become a huge success, similarly with Apple TV. If the console launches at $400 to $600, the cable TV audience might find it too expensive as a glorified Roku. So essentially, Microsoft are trying to market the Xbox One to an audience that doesn’t really want it, while alienating the audience that does actually want it. Right now, given their partnerships and brand loyalty from consumers, they are too big to fail. But Sony came into the previous generation as the clear winner with the PS2, and the PS3 took a long time to find its momentum because of Sony’s poor choices and hubris. Regardless, Sony have managed to find secure footing and loyalty with the likes of PlayStation Plus, bringing old loyalists back into the fold and welcoming new buyers with open arms with things like the Instant Game Collection.

How do you feel about Microsoft’s aim with the Xbox One? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Be Cresponian…be an Empath.

We can cultivate empathy throughout our lives, says Roman Krznaric—and use it as a radical force for social transformation.

If you think you’re hearing the word “empathy” everywhere, you’re right. It’s now on the lips of scientists and business leaders, education experts and political activists. But there is a vital question that few people ask: How can I expand my own empathic potential? Empathy is not just a way to extend the boundaries of your moral universe. According to new research, it’s a habit we can cultivate to improve the quality of our own lives.

But what is empathy? It’s the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. That makes it different from kindness or pity. And don’t confuse it with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As George Bernard Shaw pointed out, “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you—they might have different tastes.” Empathy is about discovering those tastes.

The big buzz about empathy stems from a revolutionary shift in the science of how we understand human nature. The old view that we are essentially self-interested creatures is being nudged firmly to one side by evidence that we are also homo empathicus, wired for empathy, social cooperation, and mutual aid.

Over the last decade, neuroscientists have identified a 10-section “empathy circuit” in our brains which, if damaged, can curtail our ability to understand what other people are feeling. Evolutionary biologists like Frans de Waal have shown that we are social animals who have naturally evolved to care for each other, just like our primate cousins. And psychologists have revealed that we are primed for empathy by strong attachment relationships in the first two years of life.

But empathy doesn’t stop developing in childhood. We can nurture its growth throughout our lives—and we can use it as a radical force for social transformation. Research in sociology, psychology, history—and my own studies of empathic personalities over the past 10 years—reveals how we can make empathy an attitude and a part of our daily lives, and thus improve the lives of everyone around us. Here are the Six Habits of Highly Empathic People!

Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers

Highly empathic people (HEPs) have an insatiable curiosity about strangers. They will talk to the person sitting next to them on the bus, having retained that natural inquisitiveness we all had as children, but which society is so good at beating out of us. They find other people more interesting than themselves but are not out to interrogate them, respecting the advice of the oral historian Studs Terkel: “Don’t be an examiner, be the interested inquirer.”

Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own. Curiosity is good for us too: Happiness guru Martin Seligman identifies it as a key character strength that can enhance life satisfaction. And it is a useful cure for the chronic loneliness afflicting around one in three Americans.

Cultivating curiosity requires more than having a brief chat about the weather. Crucially, it tries to understand the world inside the head of the other person. We are confronted by strangers every day, like the heavily tattooed woman who delivers your mail or the new employee who always eats his lunch alone. Set yourself the challenge of having a conversation with one stranger every week. All it requires is courage.

Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities

We all have assumptions about others and use collective labels—e.g., “Muslim fundamentalist,” “welfare mom”—that prevent us from appeciating their individuality. HEPs challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with people rather than what divides them. An episode from the history of US race relations illustrates how this can happen.

Claiborne Paul Ellis was born into a poor white family in Durham, North Carolina, in 1927. Finding it hard to make ends meet working in a garage and believing African Americans were the cause of all his troubles, he followed his father’s footsteps and joined the Ku Klux Klan, eventually rising to the top position of Exalted Cyclops of his local KKK branch.

In 1971 he was invited—as a prominent local citizen—to a 10-day community meeting to tackle racial tensions in schools, and was chosen to head a steering committee with Ann Atwater, a black activist he despised. But working with her exploded his prejudices about African Americans. He saw that she shared the same problems of poverty as his own. “I was beginning to look at a black person, shake hands with him, and see him as a human being,” he recalled of his experience on the committee. “It was almost like bein’ born again.” On the final night of the meeting, he stood in front of a thousand people and tore up his Klan membership card.

Ellis later became a labor organiser for a union whose membership was 70 percent African American. He and Ann remained friends for the rest of their lives. There may be no better example of the power of empathy to overcome hatred and change our minds.

Habit 3: Try another person’s life

So you think ice climbing and hang-gliding are extreme sports? Then you need to try experiential empathy, the most challenging—and potentially rewarding—of them all. HEPs expand their empathy by gaining direct experience of other people’s lives, putting into practice the Native American proverb, “Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him.”

George Orwell is an inspiring model. After several years as a colonial police officer in British Burma in the 1920s, Orwell returned to Britain determined to discover what life was like for those living on the social margins. “I wanted to submerge myself, to get right down among the oppressed,” he wrote. So he dressed up as a tramp with shabby shoes and coat, and lived on the streets of East London with beggars and vagabonds. The result, recorded in his book Down and Out in Paris and London, was a radical change in his beliefs, priorities, and relationships. He not only realized that homeless people are not “drunken scoundrels”—Orwell developed new friendships, shifted his views on inequality, and gathered some superb literary material. It was the greatest travel experience of his life. He realised that empathy doesn’t just make you good—it’s good for you, too.

We can each conduct our own experiments. If you are religiously observant, try a “God Swap,” attending the services of faiths different from your own, including a meeting of Humanists. Or if you’re an atheist, try attending different churches! Spend your next vacation living and volunteering in a village in a developing country. Take the path favored by philosopher John Dewey, who said, “All genuine education comes about through experience.”

Habit 4: Listen hard—and open up

There are two traits required for being an empathic conversationalist.

One is to master the art of radical listening. “What is essential,” says Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), “is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within—to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing in that very moment.” HEPs listen hard to others and do all they can to grasp their emotional state and needs, whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer or a spouse who is upset at them for working late yet again.

But listening is never enough. The second trait is to make ourselves vulnerable. Removing our masks and revealing our feelings to someone is vital for creating a strong empathic bond. Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding—an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences.

Organizations such as the Israeli-Palestinian Parents Circle put it all into practice by bringing together bereaved families from both sides of the conflict to meet, listen, and talk. Sharing stories about how their loved ones died enables families to realize that they share the same pain and the same blood, despite being on opposite sides of a political fence, and has helped to create one of the world’s most powerful grassroots peace-building movements.

Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change

We typically assume empathy happens at the level of individuals, but HEPs understand that empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change.

Just think of the movements against slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries on both sides of the Atlantic. As journalist Adam Hochschild reminds us, “The abolitionists placed their hope not in sacred texts but human empathy,” doing all they could to get people to understand the very real suffering on the plantations and slave ships. Equally, the international trade union movement grew out of empathy between industrial workers united by their shared exploitation. The overwhelming public response to the Asian tsunami of 2004 emerged from a sense of empathic concern for the victims, whose plight was dramatically beamed into our homes on shaky video footage.

Empathy will most likely flower on a collective scale if its seeds are planted in our children. That’s why HEPs support efforts such as Canada’s pioneering Roots of Empathy, the world’s most effective empathy teaching program, which has benefited over half a million school kids. Its unique curriculum centers on an infant, whose development children observe over time in order to learn emotional intelligence—and its results include significant declines in playground bullying and higher levels of academic achievement.

Beyond education, the big challenge is figuring out how social networking technology can harness the power of empathy to create mass political action. Twitter may have gotten people onto the streets for Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, but can it convince us to care deeply about the suffering of distant strangers, whether they are drought-stricken farmers in Africa or future generations who will bear the brunt of our carbon-junkie lifestyles? This will only happen if social networks learn to spread not just information, but empathic connection.

Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination

A final trait of HEPs is that they do far more than empathize with the usual suspects. We tend to believe empathy should be reserved for those living on the social margins or who are suffering. This is necessary, but it is hardly enough.

We also need to empathize with people whose beliefs we don’t share or who may be “enemies” in some way. If you are a campaigner on global warming, for instance, it may be worth trying to step into the shoes of oil company executives—understanding their thinking and motivations—if you want to devise effective strategies to shift them towards developing renewable energy. A little of this “instrumental empathy” (sometimes known as “impact anthropology”) can go a long way.

Empathizing with adversaries is also a route to social tolerance. That was Gandhi’s thinking during the conflicts between Muslims and Hindus leading up to Indian independence in 1947, when he declared, “I am a Muslim! And a Hindu, and a Christian and a Jew.”

Organizations, too, should be ambitious with their empathic thinking. Bill Drayton, the renowned “father of social entrepreneurship,” believes that in an era of rapid technological change, mastering empathy is the key business survival skill because it underpins successful teamwork and leadership. His influential Ashoka Foundation has launched the Start Empathy initiative, which is taking its ideas to business leaders, politicians and educators worldwide.

The 20th century was the Age of Introspection, when self-help and therapy culture encouraged us to believe that the best way to understand who we are and how to live was to look inside ourselves. But it left us gazing at our own navels. The 21st century should become the Age of Empathy, when we discover ourselves not simply through self-reflection, but by becoming interested in the lives of others. We need empathy to create a new kind of revolution. Not an old-fashioned revolution built on new laws, institutions, or policies, but a radical revolution in human relationships.

 

I don’t have to “Just Try it” or “wait till E3″ or “Wait for the Games”

I don’t “have to try it out” to know that I don’t want a camera on recording video and audio at all times in my house.  I don’t “have to try it out” to know that I don’t want a machine that won’t allow me to let my friends borrow games. I don’t “have to try it out”  to know that having a machine that requires said camera to be connected for the console to function is a stupid idea. I don’t “have to try it out” to understand that a system that requires an internet connection to function is a bad idea.  I don’t “have to try it out” to know that I don’t watch TV anymore, and abhor sports so those features are pointless to me.

My Current Media PC can absolutley DECIMATE this Xbox One. 1.6Ghz 8-Core AMD Jaguar Processor? My 2500k crushes that One’s 3.6Ghz big brother, the FX 8150. Radeon 7790-level graphics on the Xbone? My GTX660 SuperClocked can outperform THAT cards big brother the 7870(which is the card class that the PS4 is using BTW) which is two performance stacks higher in performance than the 7790 in the Xboned. Oh, and 8GB of RAM is cute…and the fact that 3GB of it is eaten by the OS….and the 5GB left is split between the GPU and CPU….Well, The GTX660 has 2GB of dedicated DDR5 and the system itself has a nice helping of 16GB of DDR3 1866….And a 500GB hard drive? Is that a Joke? And they expect to ship games on Blu-Ray? Any other Steam fans pick up Max Payne 3? Remember how that Game’s install was 30GB? Most Next-Gen games are probably going to be bigger. My media PC has a 2TB Hard Drive dedicated to Steam and a 1TB Hard Drive for Origin, Blizzard Games, etc…AND I could upgrade it further!!! You know what else? I could watch Blu-Rays on it and don’t have to worry about the MPAA spying on me and requesting more money because I have 5 people watching instead of 4 (MS patented that use for the Kinect…encarta it!)

 

Look man, MS already put it out there. Their intentions and what they think of us, their customers. They think we are all mindless sheeple who would go along with any crazy idea they have because of GAMEZ!!!

I guess, other than the Kinect constantly recording your home and sending video and audio to Microsoft for advertisers, my biggest issue is that they block used games. The popular argument is for piracy. I call BS on that. How many times have you heard of games like Call of Duty, Bioshock, Metal Gear, The Sims, make millions? How many times have you heard stories of small indie developers become over night millionaires? It’s more common than you think. An average indie Android game developer makes $52,000 a month…and that’s on a platform that’s so easy to pirate on it’s RIDICULOUS!! It can’t be piracy then. It’s just pure GREED. They don’t want you trading games with your friend. They don’t want you letting friends borrow games. It’s all about control.

Sorry guys, if gaming gets to Draconian, I’ll stick with Nintendo for a while and just end up reading comics, writing my novel, reading books, theirs a lot more to life, and after dumping watching Television years ago, my only interaction with the TV was to play some games on my media pc. I still watch some quality scripted television and alternative news media, but I tend to do that stuff at my PC…or on my Nexus 7…or my HTC (good) One…or my iPad…

 

Microsoft is trying this due to hubris. A Microsoft head actually went on the record and told us “If you want backwards compatibility, then you’re mentally backwards.” He seriously SAID THAT! How can I even consider buying a console from a company that basically just called me retarded? They feel they dominated this generation(which they didn’t Nintendo did…I was as shocked as you…look it up… the total combined world-wide sales of 360 and PS3 is CLOSE to the Wii). I’m hoping that with a big enough backlash they will step down from all these draconian measure, or at the very least, fire a warning shot across Sony’s bow, to make sure they don’t pull similar shenanigans at E3.

 

But, yeah…I don’t “have to try it out” Unless MS completely goes back on almost everything they said, this machine will NEVER find a place in my home, and from what I’ve been reading EVERYWHERE, or anybody elses for that matter.

Oh and here’s my speculative prices for the Xbox One.

$299.99 with 2 Year Subscription to Xbox Live @ $14.95 per Month

$699.99 without subscription, but will require the $14.95 subscription to use the full functions of the machine. You can still use the Xbox Live Gold account(the one that’s $50-$60 a year), but it will be renamed Xbox Basic which will allow Online Gaming and streaming from select sources. Xbox Free(aka Silver) will basically allow you to turn on and use the system for Games and Blu-Ray movies.

I feel bad for anyone who falls for the 2 year subscription version, because if this new Xbox is anything like the old 360, you’ll probably have to spend $700 anyway once you’re $300 one RRoDs…

Apple’s Tax Hypocrisy Tech says there’s a shortage in homegrown talent—but tax avoidance only makes it worse

It’s remarkable how quickly the storm of outrage over Apple’s epic tax avoidance has passed over Washington. All it took was for Apple CEO Tim Cook (2011 compensation: $378 million) to share some yuks with senators about their love for his company’s products (“I love Apple. I love Apple,” enthused Claire McCaskill) and to cast Apple’s extreme measures to avoid taxes (paying not a cent on $30 billion in global profits parked in an Irish subsidiary that has as much physical reality as a leprechaun) as a mere matter of subjective perspective: “The way that I look at this is there’s no shifting going on that I see at all,” Cook told John McCain. “I see this differently than you do, I believe.”

There’s one aspect of the Apple tax avoidance that I’m particularly surprised has been allowed to slip unscrutinized. As you’re probably aware, the Silicon Valley giants have been in Washington a lot of late for something other than explaining the postmodern relativism of tax liability: to lobby for immigration reform. They’re interested, in particular, in greatly expanding the number of H-1B visas, which Apple, Google, Facebook and the rest of the tech behemoths rely on to hire foreign software engineers. They need to bring these workers over from India, China and elsewhere, the companies say, because there simply aren’t enough qualified native ones being trained here at home. One of the biggest champions of this demand was none other than Steve Jobs, Cook’s predecessor, who made the pitch directly to President Obama in 2011. Sometimes, the companies phrase it euphemistically: The lack of H-1B visas, Google’s public policy shop explains, is “preventing tech companies from recruiting some of the world’s brightest minds.” Mark Zuckerberg was slightly more candid in his big Washington Post op-ed, throwing his weight behind immigration reform: “To lead the world in this new economy, we need the most talented and hardest-working people” (you hear that, Middle America?) And sometimes it comes out just plain awkward: “There are simply more smart Indians and Chinese than there are Americans,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said over the weekend on CNN. (Yes, he is of course literally correct, sample size and all—there are more dumb people over there too!—but still…)

We’ve become so used to hearing our educational system disparaged from all corners that we have insufficiently zeroed in on this part of the Silicon Valley argument. There are many reasons why our schools fall far short of the ideal—students arriving unprepared, bureaucracies constrained by hidebound rules, etc. And one reason is, yes, inadequate resources, more in some parts of the country than others. Which brings us to Apple. From the deeply-reported New York Times story that laid bare its tax avoidance last year:

A mile and a half from Apple’s Cupertino headquarters is De Anza College, a community college that Steve Wozniak, one of Apple’s founders, attended from 1969 to 1974. Because of California’s state budget crisis, De Anza has cut more than a thousand courses and 8 percent of its faculty since 2008. Now, De Anza faces a budget gap so large that it is confronting a ”death spiral,” the school’s president, Brian Murphy, wrote to the faculty in January. Apple, of course, is not responsible for the state’s financial shortfall, which has numerous causes. But the company’s tax policies are seen by officials like Mr. Murphy as symptomatic of why the crisis exists.

 

”I just don’t understand it,” he said in an interview. ”I’ll bet every person at Apple has a connection to De Anza. Their kids swim in our pool. Their cousins take classes here. They drive past it every day, for Pete’s sake. ”But then they do everything they can to pay as few taxes as possible.”

As that piece reported, Apple not only does its utmost to avoid paying federal taxes in the U.S., but also to minimize its taxes at the state and local level. One favorite trick: Nevada. The Times: “With a handful of employees in a small office here in Reno, Apple has done something central to its corporate strategy: it has avoided millions of dollars in taxes in California and 20 other states. Apple’s headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company’s profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains. California’s corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada’s? Zero.”

If Apple really cares about a shortage of homegrown engineering talent, then it should pay taxes to fund the institutions that could address that problem. Yes, I know. What they’ve done in seeking out every loophole from Eire to eternity is technically legal. It’s the fault of the governments that allow these loopholes to exist. Everyone does it. But here’s why these rationalizations don’t cut it any more, if they ever did. In taking such an influential role in shaping our new immigration policy, the Silicon Valley giants are offering themselves as having a stake in our country’s common prosperity: To thrive, they are saying, we Americans must fix this immigration morass, by, among other things, making it easier for us to hire labor from abroad. There will be winners and losers, but it will be good for us all in the long run.

The industry’s new aspiration to a kind of town-father, old-fashioned Chamber of Commerce investment in the greater good comes through in George Packer’s terrific new New Yorker dispatch from Silicon Valley. Packer cites the scene of Obama’s 2011 visit to the Valley in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs: Cisco CEO John Chambers “kept pushing [Obama] for a tax holiday on overseas profits that are reinvested in the United States…While Chambers was lobbying Obama, over cod and lentil salad, Zuckerberg turned to Valerie Jarrett, the President’s adviser, and whispered, ‘We should be talking about what’s important to the country. Why is he just talking about what’s good for him?” Packer also quotes Joe Green, a Zuckerberg roommate at Harvard who was not part of the original Facebook team but has since reunited with him to run the new Silicon Valley group, FWD.us, that is pushing immigration reform. “How do we move America into the knowledge economy? And how do we create a voice for the knowledge community that is about the future and not selfish?”

FWD.us has already run into some murky controversies as it tries to navigate the realities of partisan Washington. But the larger question raised by the industry’s new aspiration to playing a constructive role is pretty simple: Isn’t one way to show that you want to be part of the nation’s common good—a “not selfish voice”—to, you know, pay taxes? Or rather, not go completely out of your way to avoid paying them? Yes, companies have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to grow profits. But in their quest to reform immigration laws to their liking, the Valley giants are arguing that there is some sort of commonwealth that will, in the end, benefit our entire bottom line—corporate and national. Why does the same logic not apply at all when it comes to their tax liability? Why can the case not be made to shareholders that it would be good for Apple in the long run if that community college just down the road from the company’s main campus (a campus that is about to be transformed into a $5 billion fortress) were not falling apart? Who knows, it might even produce a homegrown employee one of these days, like that Wozniak guy.

Microsoft admits they lost the console war with Xbox One

Xbox One is just announced, while Microsoft admits they have lost the war against Sony PlayStation 4 in the most subtle way during their “reveal event” May 21, 2013.

The Xbox One reveal event took place at Microsoft’s Redmond Campus, in case you missed the online livestream, you can watch it on demand here at the Xbox website.

During their reveal event, Microsoft put the majority of their focus on making the Xbox One the hub of living room entertainment, rather than gaming itself, and spent a considerable time talking about the user experience. The whole idea behind Xbox One would be “Simple. Instant. Complete.” And before we dive into possible reasons behind this entertainment-centric strategy, let’s have a recap on the specifications of the Xbox One system in detail.

CPU, GPU and memory subsystem

First we look at the Xbox One SoC. The Xbox one SoC boasts a whopping 5 billion transistors on a monolithic die, the die contains several major important components; the first one being an 8-core Jaguar block with caches, the next being a GCN GPU block with 768 scalar shaders (that’s 12 Compute Units), several move units for direct memory access (DMA) to the GPU, several accelerator blocks including one for audio processing, dual-channel DDR3 memory controller for the whole SoC and a big chunk of 32 MB embedded SRAM (eSRAM) for the graphics block.  The eSRAM also connects to the memory controller to get required data from the main memory and store in the relatively smaller eSRAM block, so the GPU can treat it as a very-fast last level cache.

The reason for a large transistor count is reflected through one big block, yes, the big block of eSRAM. For a 32 MB eSRAM array, there is 268,435,456 bit cells, for a 6T (6 transistors per bit cell) configuration, it would translate to 1.61 billion transistors, while for a 8T configuration, that’s around 2.15 billion transistors.

The Jaguar CPU cores use the AMD64 (64-bit) architecture, the CPU cores also have the ability to do hardware virtualization with nested page tables, which Microsoft said is crucial for enabling the Xbox One operating system stack. The exact GPU specification was not actually revealed during the event, but rather, hints were given by the game developers.  There were some clearer hints from the Microsoft Engineers at the technical discussion session after the livestream event. So the GPU can do 768 operations in a single cycle, that means 768 scalar ALUs based off the GCN architecture. We will not point to whether it’s Southern Islands or Sea Islands shaders.  Microsoft claims 4 times the calculations per second and 8 times the graphics performance over the Xbox 360 GPU.

Going over to the memory subsystem, the Xbox One features 8 GB of RAM, and the large chunk of eSRAM mentioned a few paragraphs above. Microsoft is claiming over 200 GB/s bandwidth for the memory subsystem, it does seem to be inline (and even surpass) Sony PlayStation 4 on the memory subsystem front with eSRAM, but devil is in the details.

Local storage, connectivity options

The Xbox One will continue to have a large local storage, as the console will include a 500 GB, 2.5″ notebook form factor harddrive (SAMSUNG Spinpoint M8 ST500LM012, manufactured by Seagate), the specifications would be 5400 RPM and 8 MB Cache, the harddisk is connected using a SATA 3.0 Gbit/s interface. Attempting to catch up in the physical game media race, the Xbox One will equip a slot-in Blu-ray Disc drive, leveling the playing field with Wii U and PlayStation 4, and Xbox One can also play Blu-ray Moview, catching up with the PlayStation 3.

As for the connectivity options, USB 3.0 ports will be on the Xbox One to charge the new controllers and allow access to USB flash memory. The Xbox One will continue to have support for 802.11a/b/g/n and WiFi Direct, an RJ-45 port is also present for wired Internet connections. On the display connectivity front, as the Xbox One shifts focus towards Live TV entertainment, there will be an HDMI 1.4a input alongside the HDMI 1.4a output. Microsoft said the HDMI 1.4a ports are able to transmit 4K video streams as well as 7.1 surround sound. Users can opt for S/PDIF connection to bypass 7.1 surround sound to the home audio amplifier.

The die size of the SoC is between “huge” and “gigantic”, a whopping 5 billion transistor figure.  Microsoft opts for multiple power states for the SoC to deal with a monster die sucking power.  The SoC also features separate power planes for the CPU block, the GPU block, the northbridge and memory I/O, to further reduce the power consumption by allowing independent and dynamic frequency and voltage adjustment. A large heatsink fan is also used to cool down the big chip.  Microsoft states the fan will go completely quiet even when going at full speed, to meet the requirements of a living room device.

Improved Kinect sensor and Xbox controller

The Kinect got the upgrade, as expected, and supporting capture at 1080p resolution, with a wider field-of-view to allow a maximum 6 people to be detected at the same time, compared to 2 for the previous generation. The sensor can also detect more joints, more muscle movements detection (such as shoulder angles), motion force (like the punching action) and the ability to detect more accurate features such as heart beats and emotions for each person in front of the Kinect sensor.

However, the new Kinect sensor will become an integral part of the Xbox One experience as far as the voice command and gesture controls go. Therefore the Kinect is now bundled in the box for every Xbox One systems sold, and required to be connected to the console at any time. And as the new Kinect sensor supports 1080p capturing with a lot more detail, the Kinect sensor will utilize a new connector and cable featuring a different shape and higher data bandwidth, which means the old Kinect sensor will not be compatible with the Xbox One.

For the new controller, the ergonomics have been improved, with increased precision and new programmable trigger feedback. The battery pack is also streamlined, giving a nicer look and feel to the controller, the aesthetics also were updated to reflect the change of the Xbox button being moved to the top of the controller.

Operating system, Xbox Live and always-connected?

Microsoft would be proud. Why? Because they can integrate more of their off-the-shelf products and IP on the Xbox One. The operating system (actually three operating systems) are operated on top of the Hyper-V hypervisor, the first smaller operating system just boots into the main system, and the other operating system would be for the snapping apps such as Skype, NFL player stats, Internet Explorer, and so on. The main operating system is based off a variant of Windows 8, and has an exclusive partition of main memory, Microsoft also touts parallelism at operating system level for the main operating system in their technical session.

There is another operating system for the apps that shares another partition of main memory with the main operating system. Microsoft says by utilizing this operating system stack, they can achieve an instant experience, just like switching a TV channel, and attracts more app developers to develop apps for the Xbox One platform.

Xbox Live got some cloud integration love from Microsoft with their Azure cloud platform integration, and Microsoft is deploying more datacenters packed with servers. The plan is to increase the number of servers to 300,000 from 15,000 at the moment. With the additional servers that share the computation workloads, game developers can create and host larger online multiplayer events with more players, users will also be able to backups saves and files like recorded TV (after editing with the accompanied basic video cutting tool on Xbox One) to the cloud. The membership levels for Xbox Live, however, stayed the same, so the gamertags and the whole Xbox Live profile for the Xbox 360 console will be able to seamlessly transition to the new Xbox One.

One of the most criticized rumors about the Xbox One prior to the reveal event, would be the requirement of an always-connected Internet connection, be it a wired or a wireless connection. Microsoft was being very vague and ambiguous on this during the livestream and the technical discussion session. According to Kotaku, the Xbox One requires the users connect to the Internet once every 24 hours.  We think Microsoft will require a connection but does not want to actually tell buyers before they purchase thereby turning off a generation of gamers, or their parents.

Game lineup

Throughout the event, only 3 segments were used to give game previews. A total of 21 games were announced in the event, 16 of them are exclusive to Xbox One, while only 1/3rd of the mentioned games had their name’s revealed. Forza Motorsports 5 has been announced as the launch title, while 15 titles from Microsoft Studios were announced, in which 8 of them are based off new franchises, one of them being Remedy Game’s Quantum Break.

The most anticipated game would be Call of Duty: Ghosts, featuring higher texture resolutions for characters and large dynamic maps for multi-player mode. Activision will launch the Xbox One version with exclusive gameplay content. The other being a partnership deal signed with EA Sports, with Xbox One exclusive contents for FIFA 14 Ultimate Team.

What happened?

The subtle theme of “We lost the war” was interwoven throughout the whole event. Microsoft had more than three months to properly respond to everything mentioned in the PlayStation 4 unveiling event, which was February 21, 2013, and yet, their responses on all aspects of a gaming console (or even as an entertainment hub) have been lackluster at best.

The event didn’t focus on the gaming experience, but instead focused on an attempt to reinvent the wheel on yet another living room device replacement. However, the big, bulky, boring black box (BBBBB or 5B for short) that embraces simplicity doesn’t necessarily fit all households, when small apartments are put into consideration. Compounding the problem, the Xbox One itself cannot replace one’s digital/cable/satellite TV set-top box/integrated digital TVs, so one will have to do HDMI bypass, and one would be seeing five cables at the back of the Xbox One console when one also charges the controller through an USB 3.0 cable. And further adding to the pain is that most of the TV related experience (including the NFL partnership) introduced in the event is for selected regions only (mostly US and Canada), those features would be useless for other regions of the world.

Voice command on Xbox One is neat, but is probably limited to English only. Gesture control with gestures like Grab and pan, Swipe up and Snapping is not surprising given Kinect features, while snapping (multi-tasking) is from Windows 8, with Internet Explorer, NFL stats and Skype video call are being demonstrated, the snapped contents are also viewable on Smartglass devices. So far, they are the correct way to simplify and evolve the navigation experience through the menus with Kinect sensor features, but there isn’t enough surprise there. Worse yet, the gesture control on TV is not a first in the industry, Samsung did it for their SmartTV line for quite some time already, and they have even more features like face recognition and a “like” (thumbs up) gesture.

Going further on home entertainment, Microsoft did not talk about the timeframe of 4K content (both gaming and entertainment) arriving for users and how Microsoft is going to be prepared for that, 4K content is supposed to go mainstream during the life-cycle of Xbox One, unless Microsoft just plans a 3-year life-cycle for Xbox One and would  be readying an Xbox Two in 2016, but that won’t solve the same old problem which the R&D cost of a game console cannot be covered throughout the whole life-cycle. And then, no word on stereoscopic 3D capabilities of the Xbox One either, we suspect it’s due to the fact that the 3D features on Xbox One just stayed the same, that it became pointless for Microsoft to even talk about it.

And as we move on the hardware, the dire situation just got worsen, the new controller and the Kinect are just slight upgrades to catch up with the current technology, instead of a completely new concept.

The same goes to the core of the console. When we are looking at the Xbox One SoC architecture and compare it with the Xbox 360 XCGPU SoC architecture, it’s just a mild tweak more than anything else. The idea is to replace the old PowerPC cores with a more developer-friendly x86 (for cross-platform game development with the PC) and a newer GPU architecture with higher hardware efficiency. The eSRAM can now directly access the main memory, so there is a plus there.

It’s, however, unlike the PlayStation 4 APU architecture, that has a heavy focus on GPU accelerated simulations and computations, the Xbox One will not shine on GPU compute heavy workloads, another major feature that game developers actually wanted and focus on, simply because the memory bandwidth available to the whole SoC or GPU compute is just inadequate given the large scale of scalar ALUs present in the GPU. Microsoft does have DirectCompute and C++ AMP for GPU accelerated compute and claims the GPU having coherent memory addressing space, but these are not reflected during the event, nor in any other technical sessions. The death blow would be, none of in-game visuals from the previewed games have extensive use of GPU accelerated features such as physics, unlike the games shown in the PlayStation 4 unveiling event. Adding to the irony is NVIDIA’s announcement of CPU-only PhysX physics and APEX cloth simulation SDKs available for Xbox One console.

The monolithic die SoC is simply huge with the inclusion of a large chunk of eSRAM for game developers to manage and squeezing the last bit of performance, through extensive care in the eSRAM utilization to avoid performance degradation. However, judging from the past on the Xbox 360, it will probably just end up as an almost “free” anti-aliasing solution for most of the games, as game developers voiced opposition specifically to this technology to Sony, ultimately driving Sony to completely scratch the idea of using eDRAM for the graphics and instead used a large GDDR5 memory pool with over 176 GB/s bandwidth.

XboxOne Microsoft admits they lost the console war with Xbox One

As a sidenote, when speaking about the bandwidth numbers, the memory bandwidth on Xbox One does seem to be at the same ballpark as Sony’s PlayStaton 4, right? While Microsoft touts over 200 GB/s memory subsystem bandwidth, so it should be better than the 176 GB/s number on PlayStation 4, right? All wrong. The devil is deep in the details, remember the large chunk of eSRAM for the graphics? So the Xbox One system uses 16 pieces of Micron “D9PNZ” DDR3 memory modules on-board, a little Google search give us the exact model number being MT41J256M16HA-093, which is 4 Gbit density modules running at an I/O frequency at 1066 MHz, that’s DDR3-2133 data rate for those who don’t know, and these modules will provide 34.132 GB/s bandwidth under a dual-channel configuration. And thus, the eSRAM contributes over 166 GB/s bandwidth. However, the two numbers were added up for obvious marketing purpose, and in reality the two numbers should be seen in parallel with each other because, as we mentioned earlier, the GPU will treat the eSRAM as a very-fast last level cache, so the bandwidth here doesn’t serve the CPU cores at all.

And as we go back to the features, there is one highly anticipated feature, sparked from an patent application from Microsoft, the IllumiRoom project. The basic idea is to utilize the Kinect sensor to scan the appearances and the geometry do spatial augmented reality, and then projecting visualizations on the surface behind the TV screen, for more immersive and new gameplay experience. However, it remained a research project for the time being while some anticipated that the working prototype would hit the stage as a glimpse of future gaming.

With the future of gaming going towards a higher degree of immersion with advanced rendering techniques and display technologies, one would also consider the future of gaming to combine with more social elements. But Microsoft only addressed that with improved achievement portal with dynamic statistics compared to the whole group of gamers, Skype snapping app support, and the trending section like Twitter’s Discover section.

Microsoft has not respond to the trend in gaming over the cloud either, although the Xbox Live gets some love from the cloud and Windows Azure integration that can do more, such as finding gamer’s past matches and better multi-player matches experience given the increase in the number of servers for Xbox Live, but since backwards compatibility is out of the equation for both consoles given the switch to x86 from PowerPC architecture, there is still hope for streaming the best games from the past generations on the PlayStation platform. That is, however, not going to happen for the Xbox One platform in the short-term unless game developers are willing to rework the game on x86 platform and make it available for purchase on the marketplace.

Microsoft leads Sony on second screen strategy with SmartGlass and more features, and it got a little better with snapping apps support. And that’s the third plus side for Xbox One so far. However, the second screen is meant to provide an extra way of interacting with non-game elements of the gaming experience.

Why Microsoft just gave up to battle with Sony?

Living entertainment hub and focus on the experience, is the main theme of the Xbox One reveal event, and they did that job fine in conveying their message.

It is however, showing Microsoft’s shifting the core value of the Xbox brand into something else, something that doesn’t fit into its original intention, much less an elegant solution to deal with the issue at hand, it’s against the idea of simple when it comes to the HDMI bypass part with the set-top box. It’s not complete when it comes to the strategies behind all Xbox One features. [Author's note: Neither did Sony, though, but they have a more comprehensive strategy on the middleware, and significantly more future-proof hardware.]

This further shows Microsoft just subtly admits that they lost the console war this round with Xbox One by downplaying the most important core value of a gaming machine, which is gaming itself, and avoiding direct comparison with the competitors. The Xbox One is a wrong machine built for the wrong purposes with the wrong technologies, in case anyone wants a snappy home entertainment machine with instant and simple controls, you should really get an Xbox One. The device is due out in Holiday of 2013. Microsoft is expected to unveil more on the gaming side of Xbox One in E3 show in June, but don’t hold your breath.

Why Steam is different from what Microsoft is doing.

For PC’s: Prior to steam, you would buy a PC title and it would come with an activation code. The code was a basic and simple way to prevent pirating. This was needed on PC and not consoles, because PC discs are made to be read by computers which, reasonably, can copy that data. Consoles have never had the ability to copy a game disc.

So PC gamers had piles of game discs, and codes. But obviously the codes didn’t work an infinite number of times. That would defeat the entire purpose of the code! So if, say, you bought a new computer and needed to reinstall the game onto your new system, you would need to first contact the game company, read them your product code, and then they would either allow an additional activation, or would give you a new code to use.

All in all, it was complicated as fuck. What’s more, because computer games can be run without the disc in the machine, sometimes gamers would simply lose the disc! Then, when they get a new computer, they would be SOL and need to rebuy any missing games.

Add in account locking to this situation, and the consumer is nothing but pleased: He doesn’t need to keep track of discs and codes anymore! He can install on any number of computers! All is well in the world!

But now let’s look at consoles: They share none of these problems. Instead, they had cartridges (later, discs) which could easily be swapped from system to system with no drm (because discs weren’t made in a way that was easy to duplicate anyway). And console users always had a decent library established for their game discs since they were always necessary to play the game.

Add account locking to this and…. well it’s really just throwing a monkey wrench into the consumer’s plans. Everything gets more complicated. Even if it doesn’t create a barrier to what you wanted to do (like play a game at a friend’s house without bringing over your xbox), then it’s still only an additional hassle with absolutely no benefit to you.

  • PC Gaming has never been about bringing your game to your friend’s house and playing it on his PC.
  • PC Gaming is rarely multiplayer/multiaccount on the same machine.
  • Steam sells most of the games available on consoles for cheaper.
  • Steam has massive sales and bundled sales where you can get games anywhere from 50-90% off retail price.
  • Steam doesn’t prevent you from installing mods on your games.
  • Steam doesn’t require an internet connection once the games have been installed.
  • More than one person can be logged into the same steam account at the same time. [EDIT: to be completely accurate, more than one person can use the same account at the same time, but only one can be logged in AND playing the games - but the point stands, one account can be used by multiple people to play the same games.]
  • PC Gaming has never been about game resale.
  • Console gamers have always relied on used game resales/trades/rentals.
  • Console gamers have not had the requirement to be logged in to play single player before – for some gamers I know in rural areas, this is one of the reasons they own a console over a powerful gaming PC.
  • Finally, I don’t HAVE to use Steam to play games on my PC. I can choose to get them from ANYWHERE. You don’t have a choice on the XBox One.

The PC is not a closed platform, and many games are available through different services. That means that while Steam has an effective Monopoly due to widespread use, it’s not the only choice on the market, it is a free thinking peoples choice. On Xbox’s platform, you’ll do things Microsoft’s way or not at all.

Valve is also really good to its customers. Constant sales, ease of downloading titles, an offline mode, and no subscription fee. Microsoft’s platform definitely lacks some of these perks, and it’s unlikely they will ever be as generous or as forward thinking as Valve, so a closed platform with all of the drawbacks of Steam with few or none of the perks of it does not sound appealing to me.

Furthermore, when I purchase a console I’m looking for a different experience than I get from a PC. For me, a PC is a much more personal piece of equipment; I don’t care if I can’t easily transport my games from place to place or lend them out because I’d never expect that from the platform. When it comes to consoles I value physical media, and I value being able to rent games or to take them to a friend’s house without having to transport my PC, create a user account on their system or download the whole bloody game at my destination. At that point I’m getting all of the drawbacks of PC gaming on a system that is substantially less powerful than a gaming PC I could build for just a little bit more money.

To sum it up, it lacks most of what made console gaming attractive in the first place and it’s inferior in every way to building a PC for my living room. That’s why I hate what they’re doing with this and it’s why I won’t be buying it.

Everything I THINK I know about the Next Xbox…..

We’re finding out about the new Xbox today. But that doesn’t mean we have no idea what’s coming. Here’s a rundown of everything I know, or think I know, about the next Xbox.

The Specs

I’m  pretty sure I know what the guts of the new Xbox look like. It’ll have a 64-bit, 8-core, 1.6GHz processor made by AMD with x86 architecture and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. (x86 means, broadly, that it’s a lot like the chips in your home computer, which is a change for Xbox, which had until now run on PowerPC.) The GPU is an 800mhz DirectX 11.x, and will be accompanied by custom hardware to accelerate certain Xbox-specific tasks. It’s also got an ethernet port, an optical disc drive (reported Blu-ray), a default 500GB SATA 2 HDD, USB 3.0 ports, and HDMI out and in ports.

For reference, the current Xbox 360 has a 500MHz GPU, a 3-core 3.6GHz processor, and 512MB of RAM. The upcoming PlayStation 4 also has an 8-core 64-bit processor and 8GB of RAM.

Price

This one’s tricky. There is zero official information out there. But we do have some clues. Microsoft supernerd Paul Thurott spitballed a “$500, $300 with subscription” number that hints at the real issue with the new Xbox: subsidized pricing.

Microsoft already offers a subsidized Xbox 360 + Kinect package for $100 up front, if you sign up for two years of Xbox Live Gold at $15 per month. That comes out to $360 for just the two years, which is more than you’d pay if you’re bargain hunting for cheap subscription renewals.

A two-year subscription for a next gen Xbox probably wouldn’t stick in the craw as much as being locked into two years with the current system (though there’s no reason to think the current subscriptions won’t work on a new Xbox). But the relative surety of the subsidized pricing implies two things. One, this is probably coming in higher than the $400/$300 levels of the 360. And two, Microsoft understands that a gaming console, no matter how many features you pack in, is a tough thing to swallow as that big of an up-front cost.

Availability

This seems like a no-brainer, but a Microsoft exec strongly indicated recently that the next Xbox would be in stores in time for your holiday shopping spree. Which is good! Not many people are looking to buy a gaming console as a President’s Day gift.

Name

There’s a popular rumor floating that the next Xbox is going to be called Xbox Infinity, but it’s not based on much more than a clever mock-up made by a Redditor. While Xbox has trademarked Xbox 8 (which is an infinity sign turned upright), there’s no real indication that that will be the name, any more than Xbox 720 or just plain old Xbox.

The Controller

Largely the same! Most of what we know about the new Xbox controller comes from our friends at Kotaku, who tell us the controller is mostly the same, if a little smaller.

According to Kotaku’s sources:

The controller, according to Kotaku sources, actually seems quite similar to the current Xbox 360 one. Same two analog sticks in the same upper-left/lower-right position, same positioning of the d-pad and face buttons and forward and back buttons. Triggers. Bumpers. Top-center power button. It all seems to be the same, though we can’t tell if any of these buttons have been improved-if, say, the d-pad responds more crisply, if the triggers pull more deeply, and so on.

More broadly, this means that you won’t see new points of interface on the new controller, like the Wii U’s 5-inch LCD or the PlayStation 4′s touchpad.

Kinect 2: Mandatory

OK, so the part about the controller being mostly unchanged is only partially true. Why? The Kinect will be standard with every next gen Xbox sold, making it even more of a de facto controller extension than the current iteration.

The Kinect 2 will be upgraded significantly, to not just detect broad arm movements and laborious, seizure-like movements generously described as “dancing”, but finer hand gestures sent from multiple users. It’s also said to implement more natural language controls (think Siri), as well as features like wake-on-speech.

Which sounds great. But in reality, it’s probably more realistic to expect the new Kinect to perform the tasks the original was meant to at a now-acceptable level, and for these new features to be at about the same level as the curent Kinect (that is, passable, at times). So look for refined gesture recognition and improved speech control accuracy, chiefly.

Other less certain rumored features include eye-tracking, which can be amazing in the right environment, and features like pausing videos or games when you turn your head (which might be the most pointless feature being adopted by multiple companies right now).

“Always On”?

This has been a major sticking point. Rumors have persisted that the new Xbox will require a persistent internet connection, presumably at broadband level, in order to play games. And the people have not been amused.

The move, which we’ve seen with individual games like Diablo 3 and SimCity, would presumably be to enforce stricter security and anti-piracy features. It would also prevent a smaller-every-day but still significant group of people from playing and enjoying Xbox games. But we’ve also heard that it could only pertain to entertainment features, which would make slightly more sense, since that would require constantly pulling down information about content.

Microsoft has kowtowed to public sentiment on other future-facing issues after backlash from the slow or unreliably networked, like its original musings about ditching the optical drive this generation in favor of downloaded games. So it could go either way.

Update: An internal Microsoft memo obtained by Ars Technica indicates that you’ll be able to play Xbox games offline after all. Phew! Hopefully.

Xbox TV

One of the underplayed details is that the new console will reportedly have an HDMI in port. What does that mean? The Xbox is in all likelihood going to be used to control literally everything your TV does.

How would that work? The HDMI-out from your cable box would route through your Xbox, which would then apply its own interface on top of it. Theoretically, that would let Microsoft integrate all sorts of features into that. It’s likely where the reports of the Kinect controlling your cable box came from.

Don’t sleep on this as a major feature of the new Xbox. It could include capabilities ranging from deep content recognition to DVR to (hypothetically) picture-in-picture TV shows in games. This is especially interesting given the reported capability to “hot switch” between two games, effectively running both at once. The WSJ recently reported that Microsoft had definitely at least explored these options—though how many show up tomorrow is anyone’s guess outside of Redmond.

And don’t forget, Microsoft is also reported to have a cheaper, set-top-box-only version of these features coming later this year, too.

Original Content?

Back in September, Microsoft hired a CBS executive to head up production of “original video content” for the Xbox. We still don’t really know what that means. (The UK Xbox is already getting into the business of distributing movies, for instance.) It could be that, like Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu, Xbox Live Gold and the Microsoft Video Store is going to get its own original series. Which would be sort of insane. But don’t rule it out.

Windows Integration

This is based on speculation, but hear us out anyway. The new Xbox will probably integrate tightly into Windows 8, and the broader Windows Universe that Microsoft is building. It will do this as a gaming system, but also as a set top box.

The first thing to note is that this is actually possible this generation. The new Xbox has moved to an AMD x86 chip, meaning it’s using the same type of chip that Windows PCs have. Rumors have the new Xbox running Windows 8, but even if it’s not quite running the same operating system, the change of platforms should make developing games, especially for indie developers, a lot easier.

Consider: Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) is hugely successful. It’s a wonderful place to find and enjoy indie content. And that’s exactly the sort of thing that Microsoft would love to get into its Windows Store, which is doing fine, more or less, but still hasn’t reached the level Microsoft would like.

Further, tighter integration of apps like Xbox Music, Internet Explorer, and other Windows 8 features, would make sense for the central location of Windows 8 in your home. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’d just fire up the Xbox and see the Windows 8 start screen. The Dashboard has been revamped a few times, but it’s already in tune with the Windows 8 aesthetic (and, really, was the incubator for it), so figure that’ll go along mostly untouched.

Goodbye, Used Games?

The biggest bummer to come out of the rumor mill is that the new Xbox might ditch the ability to play, and therefore buy and sell and trade, used games. It’s unclear whether that will happen, but we do know that games will have to be installed to be played, though that will take place in the background over the course of play, instead of up front before you can even get into the game.

Xbox Tablet?

Microsoft is also rumored to have a 7-inch Xbox tablet coming this year, running on an ARM processor (possible Intel SoC in the future). Originally reported by the Verge, the tablet is supposed to be running a “custom Windows kernel” instead of Windows RT, which would make sense if it’s to retain ties to older XBLA titles.