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

by: Andrew GrushMay 22, 2013

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?

  • so you want to say google should copy microsoft(kinect) , and play 4yr old game angry bird, whereas in xbox one people will play high end exclusive games.

  • NateCress

    I wouldn’t be so quick to say that Google will never be able to compete on a gaming level. With the right hardware, updates to Android/Google TV, Developer launch partners, and directive from top Google execs, Google “could” surprise us all.

    • Matt Ranlett

      All of those *mights* are a mighty long list. This would represent Google launching a new business – a BIG new business. This one doesn’t make sense for them.

      • NateCress

        Of course it makes sense. Google is getting more and more into the digital content business. This will help them to find income outside of advertising while helping them to boost ad relevancy as well. Google also has this whole “let’s create the star trek computer” thing that they keep striving towards. A computer that sits in your room and knows your likes, habits, hobbies, etc. helps to further that vision.

  • Butch mayday

    I’ve been a Xbox 360 user but think I’m going to go ps4 this generation

    • Strongly considering the same thing myself. I am just fed up with Microsoft’s half assed implementation of their XBox software. For example, Microsoft’s Windows Media Center software on the XBox doesn’t even properly use the XBox controller. To pause and play you have to press down on the right joystick rather than use the play button built into the controller. The same company designed both of the parts mentioned here so why couldn’t their departments have coordinated in the least to make the software work best with the controller?

  • Justin Kos

    I pick…my home theater PC

  • Matt Ranlett

    The Xbox will slay Google TV. Microsoft is dumping huge volumnes of money into it, has over a decade of experience in this particular marketplace, and the top brand name for over 2 years. Google *might* get internet TV onto the TV but when it comes to the media company agreements, most of them are already in place. Half of the settop boxes (such as the one from AT&T Uverse) operate Microsoft software.

    In this space, MSFT vs Google in a battle for the TV? Slam dunk for Microsoft. Sony is going to be a much more interesting competition.

  • John

    It’s too early to tell. There still not enough details known about the Xbox One. For instance how does this new device interface with Windows Media Center? How about 3rd party devices like HDHomerun which has a cablecard? That’s an Ethernet connection and you would think that Microsoft could make that work. The real proof is when they start releasing some Beta units.

  • Agosto Nuñez

    The winner of ”the Living Room Wars” will be the first one to implement both T.V. D.V.R. and T.V. Channels as apps, they would need extensive corporation with ALL Cable-/Satellite-Companies, and will also have to offer lower prices.

    I do not agree with the last statement that Google does everything better, Microsoft is pretty much unmatched with many services (including Windows Live Messenger, SkyDrive, and several others), Google may have Maps, but Bing Maps comes pretty close. Microsoft is quite underrated and their innovations are rarely praised by the press ’cause it’s not ”hot” to report on them.

  • GU

    From HBO support… “HBO GO/MAX GO is not supported on
    Google TV, which includes the Vizio Co Star, Sony Internet TV & Player, and
    LG Smart TV. Google TV is not compatible with HBO
    GO. Google TV’s browser no longer supports the Adobe Flash Player that is
    used by HBO GO.”

    I have Google TV, but if google will not update flash the browser and itself will become obsolete. Looking at other optoins already…