Instead of downplaying its Nov. 12 Xbox One update, or even trying to moderate expectations, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has been hyping it to the moon.
The company promises "a completely reimagined Xbox One experience that integrates the speed and versatility of Windows 10. Get faster access to the games, friends, and features that matter most," on the game console's website. It's a full reboot of the machine's operating system moving it away from the interface patterned after Windows 8's "Metro" tile-based look into something that's unique to the gaming system.
This, however, is not just an update about speed, it also changes how Xbox users interact with each other, which the company explained on its website:
Start and join parties, add friends, and check messages without leaving full-game mode. View your friends' activity feeds, find new challengers, and see what's trending on Xbox Live in the new Community area. Whether you want to discover new movies and shows with the OneGuide or play with the best gamers on Xbox Live, the New Xbox One Experience gives you what you want, when you want it.
Microsoft is promising a lot, but in many ways the update truly is a complete refresh of the console. In addition to a major update of the OS, the company has delivered a number of changes.
Backward capability is here at last
One of the most heavily requested features by Xbox One users was to make the system backward compatible with Xbox 360 games. With the Nov. 12 update, Microsoft will have delivered after a fashion. The new OS won't make all 360 games playable on Xbox One, but it will make 104 of them useable with more on the way.
The company has a list of backward compatible games here and has promised to grow the number:
Our launch of 104 titles on Nov. 12 is just the beginning. You can expect new Xbox One Backward Compatible games to be announced on a regular basis, starting in December. More titles are on the way, including fan favorites like Halo Reach, Halo Wars, Call of Duty: Black Ops 1, Bioshock, Bioshock 2, Bioshock Infinite, and Skate 3. Stay tuned because this is just the beginning of a long list of Xbox 360 games that will run on Xbox One.
Though just a fraction of 360 titles are available now, the fact that some popular ones will be backward compatible and that more are coming may be enough to bring Xbox 360 holdouts over to the One.
A new "OneGuide" for video
The Nov. 12 update will also come with a completely revamped way for Xbox One users to find video they own, live TV, and video from various apps. The company laid out one key feature in a blog post:
The real star of the new OneGuide is app channels, which enables you to see, at a glance, what's new in your favorite video apps, like YouTube, Hulu, and FXNOW, without having to go in and open the apps themselves. In other words, you'll spend less time finding something to watch and more time actually watching!
As for live TV, the new OneGuide lets users see a picture-in-picture of what you're watching while they check TV listings or browse for something else to watch. "If you watch live TV," the company wrote, "you'll also notice that TV listings now come up instantly and in full screen, letting you see what's on more channels at once."
The company will also offer listings for DISH Networks' (NASDAQ:DISH) Sling live TV service. Though Sling has been offered on Xbox One for months, the improved integration into OneGuide makes it more useful. It also makes it much easier for Xbox One users to drop a traditional cable subscription without giving up live TV.
The basic $20 a month Sling package offers around 20 live cable channels and add-ons include enhanced movie and sports packages as well as HBO. The new OneGuide integration makes cord cutting using Sling and various streaming services as alternatives a lot more attractive since Microsoft is making content discovery and switching between various services a whole lot easier.
It's a new Xbox store
Much like the improved OneGuide, the new Xbox One store is all about making it easier to discover the content users will be looking for. The company explained some of how that works in a blog post:
As you land on the Store from Home, you'll notice it expands into four easy to explore areas -- Games, Apps, Movies & TV, and Music. A new vertical gallery view inside the Store brings you more listings at a glance. You can browse through categories like Featured, New Releases, Most Played, Top Rated, Coming Soon, and Recommendations to help you find new things to play, interact with, watch, or listen to.
In addition to the store having a whole new look, Microsoft has also made some big changes that consumers won't see but should be able to experience.
You'll also notice that the Store has gotten a big quality-of-life upgrade: It's much faster and easier to navigate, and requires fewer clicks to get to the stuff you care about. The new Store menu for each section is streamlined, allowing you to get to add-on content quickly, plus redeem any codes you may have.
The new store, along with the rest of the Xbox One update, will be an optional download for Xbox One owners starting Nov. 12. Not opting to update, however, will keep users from being able to play or communicate on Xbox Live, which requires the latest console software. It's also possible that some new games will not work on nonupdated consoles.
Daniel Kline owns shares of Microsoft. He also has an Xbox One, but struggles with most games. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.