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How Xbox One May Change Next Year

Although Xbox One has been on the market for only a few months, there are signs that some major changes might be in store for the console. Short-term changes could include some bug fixes, revamped social networking, and possibly even some new features. Long-term changes might result in a complete replacement of the Xbox One user interface. This article describes what changes Xbox One customers might realistically expect and why.
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Even though Xbox One has been on the market for only a couple months, some are already speculating that the device may undergo a drastic change in 2015. Although I don’t claim to have a crystal ball that lets me gaze into the future, I do think that the Xbox One interface could be replaced by something very different by the end of next year.

Xbox One Is Designed to Be Updatable

Before I explain why I think that Xbox One has a radical transformation coming, I want to point out that Xbox One was designed from the beginning to be updatable. In fact, Microsoft has a long history of providing various types of patches for many of its products. Such patches are commonly designed to fix software bugs, but there have been numerous occasions in which Microsoft has used a software patch as a way of adding new features to its products.

There Are Things on the Xbox One That Need to Be Fixed

Some might be quick to point out that just because a product can be updated, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be. Even so, Engadget recently published an interview with Xbox chief product officer Marc Whitten (http://www.engadget.com/2014/01/08/xbox-one-updates/). In that interview, Whitten hinted at a major update coming in the near future that will address some of the feedback that Microsoft has received about shortcomings in Xbox One’s social networking features.

If nothing else, this interview signals Microsoft’s intent to update Xbox, at least in the short term. However, I think that we can also expect new features to be added periodically. For example, I think that Xbox One could benefit tremendously from the addition of some notification mechanisms. For instance, I would like to see live tiles or status icons that indicate controller battery status and hard disk space remaining.

One Microsoft Might Turn Out to Be More Than a Marketing Slogan

It’s easy to make the case for a major update to Xbox One that adds functionality while correcting bugs and various shortcomings. In fact, I think that a major service update is inevitable and that it will come sometime in 2014, rather than 2015. However, there is reason to speculate that an even bigger update might be on the horizon.

July 2013, Microsoft made a rather lengthy announcement (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/press/2013/jul13/07-11onemicrosoft.aspx) regarding a corporate restructuring. The essence of the announcement was that the company would become “one Microsoft.”  In other words, the philosophy is to rally behind a single strategy as one company, as opposed to Microsoft’s past approach of having numerous different strategies that vary widely from one division to the next.

So what does this new philosophy have to do with Xbox One? Well, for one thing, Microsoft has rebranded itself as a devices and services company, and one of the things that it has been working toward is a unified experience across all of its devices. Recent commercials have even featured the tag line “one experience for everything in your life.”

So far, however, Microsoft has failed to deliver a single experience for everything. Although it’s true that Windows 8 PCs, Xbox One, Surface Tablets, and Windows Phone devices all use a similar interface, there are major differences in the end user experience from one device to the next. Even the apps that can run on the various devices are different from one another. Windows 8, Windows Phone, and Surface RT each use their own type of app that is supported only by that specific OS. For instance, you can’t run a true Windows 8 app on a Windows Phone, nor can you run a Surface RT app on an Xbox One device.

If Microsoft is to truly deliver on its visions of “one Microsoft” and “one experience for everything in your life,” it needs to achieve a higher level of consistency between its various devices. Even so, I think it’s too late for Microsoft to provide a true Windows 8 experience across devices. Such changes will have to come in the Windows 9 timeframe.

Microsoft is expected to announce Windows 9 at the Build conference in April. Although I have not seen any early Windows 9 code, Windows 9 is expected to be a radical departure from Windows 8. Microsoft (as well as most of the rest of the world) seems to have acknowledged that Windows 8 is a flop. It has also been said that Windows 9 is going to be a make-or-break release for Microsoft.

The thing that people seem to most strongly detest about Windows 8 is the user interface. That being the case, I think that it’s safe to say that Windows 9 will look very different from Windows 8. Given Microsoft’s unification strategy, I’m sure that the new operating system will also show up on Surface 3 devices and on Windows Phone 9.

But here’s the problem: Xbox devices have historically been released much less frequently than Windows operating systems, or even Windows Phone devices. In fact, in its 12-year history, there have been only three Xbox releases:

  • Xbox         November 15, 2001
  • Xbox 360     November 22, 2005
  • Xbox One     November 22, 2013

Given the previous Xbox Console release history, it seems highly unlikely that Microsoft is going to throw in the towel on Xbox One so soon after its release. Because Xbox One was designed from the beginning to be updatable, it seems far more likely that Microsoft will eventually apply a Windows 9 update to Xbox One.

So what can we expect from such an update? I think that the Home screen will probably look a lot different than it does now. I also think that Xbox One will become much more PC-like. I expect to see a much deeper level of SkyDrive integration, and perhaps even the ability to run mainstream Windows 9 apps.

At the same time, I also think that consumer editions of Windows 9 will become more Xbox-like. I don’t expect to play Xbox One games on desktop PCs, but I do think that Windows 9 desktops and tablets and Windows Phone devices will provide native access to things like Xbox video and Xbox Music.

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