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Microsoft's Biggest Product Since Windows 95

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While one tech titan was defending its (lack of) tax payments to the United States Senate, another introduced its first truly cutting-edge product in many moons. Tuesday saw the unveiling of Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  )  Xbox One. Now, this isn't your 12-year-old nephew's gaming console, it's a formidable and first-of-its-kind effort to create an interactive, all-encompassing home entertainment set-top box. While gamers and game-makers will rejoice with news of a new, top-of-the-line console, investors should be tingling with excitement -- because this may be the most compelling thing to come out of Redmond since Windows 95.

Big claim
The above paragraph has some lofty statements, I know. Moreover, I have not seen one of the machines in person nor witnessed firsthand its capability. To top it off, after Tuesday's announcement, Microsoft's stock remained nearly unchanged. Apparently Wall Street was unmoved by the highly anticipated unveiling. Competitor Sony soared nearly ten points, though the move was not related, as some outlets reported.

Still, am I wrong to believe that this new system is something worth cheerleading?

Let's not dwell on specs that mean nothing to most of us -- one can assume this gaming console has fantastic graphics and will be comparable to the coming Sony Playstation 4. A fancy graphics processor isn't going to send Microsoft back to its glory days of relevancy, anyway.

But the Xbox One does have plenty of headline-worthy features. For one, the console allows for split-screen gaming, television watching, Skype video calling, and more. This is something smart TVs have been trending toward, but haven't quite made the leap. The Xbox One, though not a TV, is the first device we have seen to offer full split-screen functionality. Users can play Call of Duty while talking to Grandma via Skype. While you are watching Iron Man via Netflix streaming on your Xbox One, you can simultaneously Google (I mean, Bing?) how much Robert Downey Jr. is paid for each film, and why that'll never happen to you. The possibilities are endless! But seriously, this feature has important implications for the future of TV-based content consumption.

Ad me!
Cable companies and their advertisers are concerned with the increasing inefficacy of commercia  breaks. For one, we have devices that enable us to skip ads entirely. But even when they are on our TVs, we are more and more likely to mute the TV and pick up our iPads. A three-minute dedicated commercial run just isn't hacking it anymore. With split-screen, multifunctioning abilities, Microsoft can offer advertisers a unique (and likely more effective) way to reach out to viewers, engaging them throughout the viewing process.

Another big deal regarding the Xbox One is its enhanced Kinect and voice control properties. In this light, the device sounds like it has achieved much of what everyone has constantly speculated that Apple will/would/should achieve with its eventual Apple TV. Siri-like interaction with the Xbox One will allow users to manage everything from "power on" to "watch ESPN." That's right, the days of the overwhelmingly blue TV guide menu will soon be a thing of the past -- at least for Xbox One owners.

A real product
Though a fan of Microsoft as a stock, I have rarely been impressed with a product offering from the company. It nearly always seems as if the Redmond-based company is putting out afterthought, catch-up products that still aren't as good as a certain Cupertino competitor's.

The Xbox One seems different. It is much, much more than a gaming console, and has implications for the future of television, all while putting Microsoft deep in the game.

Of course, we'll know more as time goes on, and it will be interesting to see what Sony throws out on June 10th for its PS4 unveiling. But for a first impression, well, I'm impressed.

More from The Motley Fool
It's been a frustrating path for Microsoft investors, who've watched the company fail to capitalize on the incredible growth in mobile over the past decade. However, with the release of its own tablet, along with the widely anticipated Windows 8 operating system, the company is looking to make a splash in this booming market. In a new premium report on Microsoft, a Motley Fool analyst explains that while the opportunity is huge, so are the challenges. The report includes regular updates as key events occur, so make sure to claim a copy of this report now by clicking here.

Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2013, at 4:48 AM, doawithlife wrote:

    Surface Pro was the biggest item since Windows 95.

    Xbox is only biggest concern to you because you use Mac OS, I would bet $1,000.

    For anyone in IT (the people that move the industry and have kept MS on top for years). The Surface Pro means a lot more then another console.

  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2013, at 4:51 AM, doawithlife wrote:

    "That's right, the days of the overwhelmingly blue TV guide menu will soon be a thing of the past "

    I have been using a HTPC for years. My current HTPC has voice recognition (as it is a Surface Pro and the Surface Pro does have that ability just like the new xbox).

    My set up is already light years ahead of the Xbox One. And I can play Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3 games on my Surface Pro(although about half lag).

  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2013, at 10:33 AM, Nomadder wrote:

    "While gamers and game-makers will rejoice with news of a new, top-of-the-line console,"


    In case you don't feel like jumping, that's 75% of over 76,000 gamers that either said "It was disappointing. Too many elements that didn't really interest me" (47.36%) or "It was a disaster. What were they thinking?" (28.87%).

    In fact, you can check almost any gaming news site. The first adopter demographic is decidedly displeased. Even 360 diehards (like myself) are talking PS4.

    If they pull back on the need to connect to the internet once every 24 hours and back off of charging fees to play borrowed/used games, then I'll be right there on day one.

    If they don't, I won't. And neither will a lot of those who are upset that MS seems to be giving the finger to gamers with its overly restrictive bs.

    Seriously, if you're not just looking for an excuse to cheerlead for MS, then take some time to sift through the massive gamer disappointment in the Xbox One (which is also a horrible, and most likely confusing name - a la Wii U).

    Kotaku, ign, Giantbomb, gametrailers, whatever. Just...go have a look. Don't take my word for it.

    And don't take the mainstream media's word for it either. They love the thing. Too bad they're not the ones usually lining up on day 1.

    Oh, did I mention the creepy always-on Kinect which MUST be connected in order for the console to even work now?

    Just...what the heck, man?

  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2013, at 10:56 AM, techy46 wrote:

    It will be really interesting to see how Intel's xTV service plays with Microsoft's XBox One. Wouldn't it be amusing if they complemented each other? Would that be Wintel Two?

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