Remember when the rumor mill’s favorite hobby was obsessing about an Apple TV set? It seemed like every week, some publication or other was reporting on the mythical device. Many assumed it would be the company’s next big revolution: iPod, iPhone, iPad ... iTV. Well, don’t look now, but Microsoft just unveiled a device that does most of what we expected the iTV to do, in the form of the Xbox One.
At its heart, the Xbox One is still a tried-and-true gaming console. But, as Microsoft made clear in its presentation, it’s also the company’s big push to own the living room. Hence the “One” branding: one device to rule your home's center of entertainment.
Isn’t that what many of us expected the Apple TV set to be? Think about the iTV’s supposed feature set:
- Natural language voice control? Xbox One has that.
- Natural gesture control? One has that too, with Kinect much improved over the Xbox 360’s version.
- Seamless integration between live TV, streaming services, and gaming? Yep.
The Xbox One even has seamless side-by-side multitasking, so you can Skype with a buddy while watching Star Trek or tearing through rounds of ammo in Call of Duty.
Truth and fictionOf course you have to take this comparison with grains of salt. Apple has undoubtedly worked on a TV set, but we’re mostly talking about a fictional product. This mythical beast was birthed by speculation and rumors, sprinkled with a few tiny tidbits of real information from Apple (like Steve Jobs’ hints about it in Walter Isaacson’s biography).
We're also going off of the Xbox One's advertised features, and Microsoft's keynote demonstration. Until we get our hands on the thing, it would probably be wise to add a few more grains of salt when throwing around words like revolution.
... but just looking at it from the frame of our expectations surrounding the TV set? The way that it could change our lives? Microsoft just checked quite a few of those boxes.
Half a revolution
There is, however, one big exception ... and it might be the very reason that Apple hasn’t yet bothered releasing a TV set. I’m talking about disrupting the way you pay for TV. Apple would surely love to help you save money by dropping annoying bundles and offering a la carte TV channels. But all signs point to Hollywood not playing ball on that one (big surprise).
The new Xbox doesn’t do anything to change the way we get our content either. That revolution – if it ever comes – will have to wait.
Of course there's also the actual TV set part. The Xbox One – like all game consoles and set-top boxes – hooks up to your existing TV. The rumored iTV was presumed to be a stand-alone set, complete with cutting-edge display and slick Apple-esque design.
But as far as a step forward in TV interaction and integration, the Xbox One is looking pretty good. If Apple ever does ship a TV set, it will be interesting to see how the company tries to differentiate it, with the Xbox One by then already sitting on store shelves.