A Few Thoughts on the Xbox One Announcement

May 23rd 2013 326 words

Yesterday Microsoft announced their next generation console, officially dubbed the “Xbox One.” After some of the initial excitement waned I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. The entire reveal event was centered more around traditional cable and TV than actual games. While Sony spent much more time showing off games and live gameplay, Microsoft used the bulk of it’s time showing us how you can navigate the new dashboard and watch TV with just your voice.

Controlling your cable box with your voice might be exciting for some folks, but I don’t have a cable subscription. I don’t want a cable subscription. The features Microsoft demoed are not what excites me about the future of TV. Rather than disrupt the pay-tv space Microsoft seems content only adding gimmicks to the current TV experience (changing channels with your voice or your hands). They may be hiding some big surprises at E3, but as for now the Xbox One will merely be a pass-through for your current cable subscription. You’re not going to find channels-as-apps or a-la-carte pricing here.

I’m much more excited about how the new Kinect will enhance gameplay than how it will enhance channel-changing. But since Microsoft decided not to show any live gameplay demos with the Kinect, we’re stuck waiting until E3.

Sony’s Playstation 4 event wasn’t perfect either. They didn’t even reveal the actual hardware. But honestly, I think it was a smart move. By holding out until E3 to reveal the hardware Sony is keeping a news-cycle ace up their sleeve. The hardware reveal will garner a lot of attention at E3, pulling eyeballs away from whatever Microsoft will be showing. It’s also possible that the Playstation 4 will have similar capabilities as the Xbox One for integrating cable/satellite TV, but those capabilities will have been downplayed in favor of games. And I still believe the gamer community not the broader “entertainment” community will be what drives the initial sales of both consoles.

The Future of TV

The guys over at The Verge have started a new series covering the innovations (or lack therof) happening to broadcast Television dubbed “Over The Top”. In the first piece Nilay Patel touches on one aspect of traditional TV we miss in our house after cutting the cord:

Using an Apple TV or an Xbox 360 is an endless exercise in decision making that feels like you’re constantly gambling with your time: if you’d just flipped on HBO you would have been 50 minutes into Transformers 2 by now, but instead you’ve watched 15 movie trailers, your wife hates you, and it’s almost midnight.

This scenario plays out several nights every week at our house. Sometimes we miss simply turning on the TV and watching whatever happens to be on.

Note: As the name of the series suggests, the video included with this article is decidedly over the top.

Make Room For Something New

Jason Fried put up a great piece about dropping existing products to make room for new ideas:

But you also know that cutting things back means that you’ve favoring what’s left. You pick the winners, you help the tree grow up strong. And most importantly, while pruning gets rid of a lot, it also opens up new opportunities. Light gets in where it couldn’t before. Air circulates better. And new growth comes to life.

This concept can also apply to life. It’s very easy to begin a myriad of new projects to make yourself feel busy and productive. If I’m working on something (anything!) I’m being productive, right?

It’s important to step back and take inventory of those activities that our enriching our lives and those that aren’t.

No Skyrim For The Windows Store

But there’s just one problem. Microsoft has decided not to make the new Windows 8 ecosystem follow the same rules as traditional Windows. Unlike the transition from MS-DOS to Windows 3.0, Microsoft isn’t planning to expand the Windows ecosystem. They are planning to bifurcate it.

According to Microsoft’s certification rules any game containing “mature” content won’t be certified for the store. That means PC Gamer’s 2011 game of the year would never exist in Microsoft’s new store.

This is perhaps one reason why there has been such resistance from the gaming industry to Windows 8.

SB Nation Redesign

Vox Media has rolled out a stunning update to one of my favorite sports sites. This particular article looks great and it is reminiscent of what we’ve been seeing from sister site The Verge. It looks like they are using Hoefler & Frere-Jones web fonts: Ziggurat for headlines, Sentinal for introductions and Mercury for the body.

I’m excited to see what Vox has in store for Polygon.

The We Of Cancer

We were obviously devastated when we received the news our daughter had cancer. We were also extremely humbled by the outpouring of support from local and online communities. Cancer is terrible but there are many organizations that are helping in the fight. Stephen now has a prominent link to St. Jude at the top of his site. Might I also suggest Make a Wish? They don’t fight cancer directly, but they help kids enjoy life while they battle the disease. Our daughter was recently granted a wish and it was pretty magical.

Khan Academy Launches New Computer Science Program

If you have any interest at all in Computer Science you owe it to yourself to try out a few of the interactive courses. John Resig wrote a nice introduction to the program in which he explains how Bret Victor’s amazing talk about responsive programming environments inspired the program:

Rather than starting Computer Science education off by explicitly teaching how a computer works or fundamental programming concepts (like variables, logic, control structures, etc.) you put the student into code of graduated complexity and encourage them to manipulate, explore, and write their own programs.

The key to these courses is the instant visual feedback. Students can use the simple tools to instantly see whether their manipulations are producing the desired results.

How To Learn

I know a lot of people that try to understand everything about iOS, Rails, or whatever they’re trying to learn. This is stupid. If you actually tried to understand it all, you’d spend years before even coming close. Just look at a simple request of the Internet. If you even got as far as TCP, I’d be impressed. If you did, TCP is mind blowing topic on it’s own. (The nerdy part is over, carry on.)

A Catastrophe

Damning words about Windows 8 from Valve’s Gabe Newell:

We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well. It’s a hedging strategy. I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we’ll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.


About six months ago I lived within 25 minutes of the Century 16 theater where the Aurora shooting occurred. I’m heart broken for the victims and their families. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Linked is the most recent issue of NextDraft where Dave Pell has excellent and sobering coverage.

Unsolicited advice for Marrisa Mayer

A pretty nice list. I like number 3:

Employees and the press will ask you for an all-encompassing strategy to save Yahoo. Ignore them. Put together a small team of the best engineers, designers and product people you can find. Charter them with building something amazing that has to ship in the next few months. Then repeat. Nothing helps morale like seeing stuff you can use.