Xbox Makes Bold Push to Own Living Room

Upcoming Microsoft gaming console promises to make TV personal like phones

Microsoft has made a bold move toward controlling consumers' relationship with television, while potentially reshaping the living room entertainment and ad experience with the upcoming launch of the Xbox One gaming console.

At the center of that ambitious push is the new Kinect, which Xbox Advertising GM Ross Honey called a "game changer." Compared to the original Kinect, which Honey said was designed to only used for "simple moves and casual games, the new Kinect sensor is for something else entirely. It is a foundational part of the platform."

One that will play the same role as GPS has in smartphones, Honey argues, making TVs super personal—which could have huge implications for programmers and advertisers. "Right now, TV is not a personalized device in any way," said Honey. "It is one size fits all. It doesn't know who is watching. That is totally unlike phones, where GPS has made them personal and meaningful….[Kinect] is the unique technology on the TV that will make it as magical and personal."

Honey demonstrated some of that potential personal magic during an impressive keynote presentation on Monday at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Mixx Conference in New York. The new Xbox One will allow users to control their TV's main functionality through voice commands. And the Xbox One Interface will allow viewers to create a personalized "My Shows" section that will be unique to each person. My Shows will list content regardless of provider—in other words, you'll be able to look at what shows you have available, whether from regular TV, Netflix, VOD, iTunes, etc.

The bet is that Kinect will know who is in the room at a given moment, and each individual's voice commands will alert the Xbox to surface the most relevant media offerings. Honey hardly mentioned Xbox advertising, but it was easily to imagine the possibilities. 

Essentially, the new Kinect is Microsoft's bet that it is best suited to win the battle for control of the TV user interface over cable and set manufacturers. The company's goals seems to be that a consumer's XBox login will ultimately people's identity when watching TV, and Xbox One's promise is that the device can make the TV viewing experience much simpler.

"Live TV should be an easy simple experience and increasingly its not," said Honey, referring to the various remotes and inputs inherent to the connected TV experience. "That changes on Xbox One. No memorizing channel numbers or fumbling remotes. And the experience is based on who is in the room This is why we bet on Kinect."

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