Microsoft Xbox One vs Google TV: The war for the living room

May 22, 2013
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Xbox One

For the last several decades your living room has largely been controlled by one powerful force: your cable (or satellite) company. This is slowly changing as companies like Apple, Roku and Google work to steal some of the spotlight.

It’s true that Google TV has had mixed success so far, but there is a ton of untapped potential for the Google TV platform. Will Google ever reach it? That’s hard to say, but the pressure is certainly on now more than ever, especially with Microsoft’s announcement yesterday of the Xbox One.

The Xbox One might be a game console, but Microsoft is clearly pushing multimedia and TV integration with its next-gen console in its own major play for the living room. As you’d expect, this draws quick comparison between the Xbox One and devices like Google TV.

The Xbox One takes a familiar idea and expands on it

Like Google TV devices, the Xbox One doesn’t actually replace a cable box. Instead, you hook your Xbox One up through HDMI and the signal is sent from the cable box over to Microsoft’s console.

So how does Xbox One handle TV differently? The biggest difference is that in right conditions you can control your TV content by using extremely polished voice commands. Instead of grabbing the remote, you simply say “Watch MTV” and it will switch to MTV, there are also hand gestures using Kinect’s camera. As an added bonus, the Xbox One is extremely fast at switching between Live TV and other Xbox One content.

Xbox One also has sleek multi-tasking abilities, making it easy to snap an app on one side of the screen and watch TV on the other 2/3 of the display. This is particularly useful if you are watching a show and want to look up something about it on the net.

That said, Xbox One’s great TV communication setup is a bit of an illusion. Why’s that? Because it only works perfectly like this under the right conditions. Not all cable providers will partner with Microsoft to make everything work, and not all cable boxes allow channel changing through HDMI. That means that for many users, you will still need to grab the cable box remote to change channels and get things done.

Asus Qube Google TV

Should Google TV and other competitors worry about the Xbox One?

The Xbox One is a gaming console. That means it will be targeted primarily at gamers who are looking to get a multimedia and gaming experience through just one device. Could Microsoft’s Xbox One steal away people who might have otherwise considered a Google TV device or even an Apple TV or Roku? Yes it certainly could, but pricing will be a factor for those who don’t need the “fancier” gaming features.

The Xbox One’s price is currently unknown, but a price tag between $400-$600 wouldn’t be too far-fetched. In contrast, the recently released Google TV-based Asus Cube is just $139.99, and many other boxes cost even less than that.

Google should pay attention to what Microsoft is doing with multimedia, but they shouldn’t worry. Instead, they should build on what Microsoft announced, and do it better.

Everything Microsoft does, Google can do better (and cheaper!)

Obviously I have a slight Google bias working for an Android site, but I also have a Windows PC and an Xbox 360 console. I don’t consider myself against Microsoft, I try to stay objective, and will strongly consider purchasing an Xbox One in the future.

The thing is that just about everything we saw with the Xbox One, Google can match – sans high-end gaming and perhaps the camera abilities of the Kinect.

Google has already shown what it can do with voice technology, and could easily one-up Microsoft here with a little work. Google also has the advantage of being an open platform, which means that it will likely allow many more apps into its store than Microsoft will push to the Xbox.

That leaves pricing and multi-tasking. While partner devices might not be able to compete with hardware while keep price low, a revamped Nexus Q could. Such a device could be sold at cost, which would allow it to pack decent hardware that would allow it to switch back and forth between TV just as flawlessly as demo’d with the Xbox One.

Hell, throw in optimized Google Play Games support on Google TV and Google might even been able to attract some casual and family gamers that would have otherwise considered a conventional console. No, Google TV can’t compete with Microsoft on a gaming level and certainly won’t replace consoles EVER, but they don’t have to. The Wii wasn’t a powerful console, but it still played a big role in the living room wars and stole some of the sales and hype away from Sony’s PS3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

What do you think of the Xbox One? Will it stomp all over Google TV and other living room devices, or are they two completely different products that won’t see much overlap?

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