Why I Want the Xbox One to Succeed

I originally wrote this article for Volume 122, Issue 2 of mathNEWS.

I feel like people boil down the XBox One announcements to three things: TV, Sports, and the dog they added to the new Call of Duty. I think that trivializing the XBox One as “just TV” is premature. I mean, yeah, you can get TV from Rogers or Comcast or whomever. But that’s not what makes the announcement interesting.

We know that the XBox brand thus far has been about video games. I mean, yeah, it ships with an old version of Internet Explorer, and yeah, you can use it to watch Netflix and YouTube (provided you pay for an XBox Live Gold Membership), but really people used it because of Halo, and Fez, and ilomilo. (At least, that’s why I went to the bother of getting an XBox Live Gold Membership – in spite of not owning my own XBox 360.)

What’s interesting about the XBox One, though, is the convergence of TV and Computers. Apple’s tried it – but Apple TV was nothing more than a hobby. Google’s tried it – they announced Google TV, what, one or two I/Os ago – only to have hardware partners pull out. Even past Microsoft has tried it – remember Windows Media Centre and MSN TV? It’s clearly an space with obvious room for improvement – you have to pick what to watch from hundreds of channels; you have to be there during the show or remember to program your PVR; and so forth. Instead, wouldn’t it be cool if the TV recommended what to watch, and adjusted PVR times if a show started early or the game was in overtime? The difficulty is getting the incentives for media companies to align with the incentives for consumers. What I’m hoping is for Microsoft to have the market adoption to seriously make “Smart TVs” more than a gimmick. Because then, once the conglomerates are used to the idea of a converged Internet-TV-Games experience, maybe there’ll be room for $MY_FAVOURITE_COMPANY to move in and introduce a competing product based on F/OSS tech.

But, one step at a time.