REDMOND, Wash. — Microsoft thinks it has the one.
The company unveiled the Xbox One, an entertainment console that wants to be the one system households will need for games, television, movies and other entertainment. It will go on sale later this year, for an undisclosed price.
For the past two years, Microsoft has led the gaming industry in console sales with the Xbox 360. But it's been eight years since that machine came out, and Microsoft is the last of the three major console makers to unveil a new system. In those eight years, Apple launched the iPhone and the iPad, “FarmVille” rose and fell and tablets began to threaten desktop computers, changing how people interact with games and beyond.
Now, the stakes are high as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are all using their latest machines to not only draw gamers but also command the living room. The goal is to extend their reach beyond loyal legions of hardcore gamers and to become as important to our lives at home as smartphones have become to our lives on the go.
Don Mattrick, Microsoft's president of interactive entertainment business, said the company has spent the past four years working on the “all-in-one home entertainment system.”
At an hour-long presentation at the company's Redmond, Wash., headquarters on Tuesday, Microsoft executives used voice controls to seamlessly switch back and forth between watching live TV, listening to music, playing a movie and browsing the Internet — all while running apps for fantasy football and Skype chats. It showed how users could watch live sports on TV while getting updates on their fantasy leagues on a split screen.
“It really extends the home entertainment experience,” Gartner analyst Brian Blau said.
He said the console seems to appeal to “more than just a core gamer in the family” and should be of interest to all types of audiences, from sports players to TV viewers to those who are “social and want to share things.”
Xbox One is the third entry in the latest round of the “console wars.” It follows Nintendo Co.'s launch of the Wii U in November and Sony Corp.'s tease in February for the upcoming PlayStation 4. Each of the next-generation consoles have shifted away from simply serving as gaming machines, as they incorporate streaming media apps and social networking features.
With the Xbox One, people will be able to connect their cable or satellite set-top box and watch TV through the game machine. The Xbox One has its own guide and lets people change channels by voice command.