Microsoft Is About To Turn Your TV Into A Smartphone

Weeks before launch, Microsoft shows off the Xbox One’s full interface and it will change the way you watch TV.

Microsoft Is About To Turn Your TV Into A Smartphone

The Xbox One has a trick that few non-gamers know about (and no, it’s not this trick.) The One has a feature called HDMI pass-through, which allows you to plug your satellite or cable box into it and run your entire television experience through the filter of the Internet-connected, Skype-wielding, fantasy-sports-playing, Xbox One.


But what does that actually look like, when TV, gaming, and Internet combine with Kinect Voice control and face recognition, and of course, Microsoft’s flatter design inspired by Windows 8?

Watch the above clip to find out. It’s 12 minutes long, so I’ll offer some quick highlights:

Things Are Fast, So You’ll Actually Use It

Not so long ago, I spoke to Zynga about why their interfaces in games like Farmville pull people in. A big reason was speed of interface, the unsung hero behind every “fluid” UI. Here, hopping from playing a game to watching TV to searching the Internet to whatever else is instantaneous, swapping full-pane screens much like Windows 8. (This speed is because Microsoft, in what was a controversial move, dedicated a sizable chunk of the Xbox One’s RAM to allow for fast app switching. Here we see how that pays off.)

The One Guide Allows Casual Browsing Of Internet TV

The One Guide looks like any channel guide you’ve ever seen (but flatter, naturally!) So what’s new here? Microsoft allows you to create new channels based upon apps like Hulu Plus. While Hulu Plus obviously can’t list specific times, it does list things like Hulu’s most popular shows of the moment. There have been numerous attempts to link users to all of their video subscriptions, but most require you to know what movie or TV show you’re looking for. There’s been no decent way to casually browse everything you subscribe to. Mapping new media to an old-school, spreadsheet guide could prove a smart approach.

Microsoft May Coax You Away From Just Watching

But the most disruptive piece of the UI may be the smallest. Now, notifications–a friend is playing Halo, or a mom who wants to Skype–will feed over all of the television programming you watch–even that old, dumb TV piping through your cable subscription. This is huge. It’s a way Microsoft can subtly engage the 85,000,000 of us who may otherwise be using a set top box offered by DirecTV, AT&T, Comcast, or any other content provider. To be fair, Microsoft allowed such notifications to be deactivated on the 360, and probably will on the One as well. Even still, Microsoft has essentially brought those irresistible iPhone/Android notifications to the passive television watching world. So anyone who buys an Xbox One won’t just play it every few months when a new game comes out, they’ll constantly be lured back with enticing information backed by lightning-quick functionality. And isn’t that just the one-two combination that got us all hooked on these gadgets in the first place?

The Xbox One comes out November 22nd for $500.


[Hat tip: Gizmodo]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.