Watching TV Through The Xbox One
It's Not Just a Gaming Console
Even though the Xbox brand is completely tied to Microsoft and gaming, we've heard it said that Xbox One is a digital hub. Apart from the chaotic world of smartphones and tablets, no other device tries so hard to be so many things at once.
Microsoft took heavy criticism from the hardcore gaming community when it unveiled Xbox One because a majority of its new features weren't explicitly gaming-related. That's not to say the console's biggest selling point isn't its role as a next-generation gaming platform. But there's so much more to Xbox One than just games. This is where Microsoft's strategy differs from Sony's, since the PS4 is a more purpose-built gaming machine.
At some point, Microsoft took a look at how Xbox 360 owners were using their consoles and determined that gaming was just one puzzle piece. In fact, almost two years ago, Xbox marketing and strategy head Yusuf Mehdi revealed that Xbox 360 owners were spending more than half of their time on Xbox Live watching videos and listening to music. Surely, Netflix and Hulu apps on the console make a huge difference, but those usage stats were what influenced the Xbox One's direction.
The Xbox One will launch with the following apps available:
· Amazon Instant Video
· Hulu Plus
· FOX NOW
· Redbox Instant by Verizon
· Xbox Video
· Xbox Music
Xbox, Watch TV
There's an HDMI input in the back of the Xbox One specifically included to take a signal from a digital cable box. Without switching inputs, you can hit the home screen's TV tile, or say "Xbox, watch TV," and the console switches over to a full-screen feed from the cable box.
You can continue to use that appliance's remote control and reference the channel guide from your cable provider. But for U.S. users, Microsoft also has its own TV guide app called OneGuide that updates once you give it information about your location and cable service.
One neat (but less advertised feature) is the IR blaster built into Kinect that can control your TV set. Programmed with the right remote code, voice commands like "Xbox, volume up" or "Xbox, mute" do what you'd expect them to. With OneGuide properly configured, you can even use commands like "Xbox, watch HBO" and jump straight to that channel.
Even for users who aren't in the U.S., the TV pass-through feature still works. I tested my review unit on Rogers cable. There is no built-in TV guide for the Canadian market (it's supposedly in-progress), but swapping between content sources on the Xbox One was easy.
With the TV feed up and active, the Xbox One continues working in the background. It'll still respond to voice commands, and I found that the best application of this awareness was switching between live TV and a game by simply telling Kinect to make it so.
For the roughly all of us who hate sitting through commercials, simply say "Xbox, go to Dead Rising 3," or "Xbox, go to Netflix," (or any other app name), spend a few minutes there, and then say "Xbox, watch TV," to get back to your program. You don't even need to pause your game before switching back; it will automatically suspend. This also works very well for keeping an eye on sports scores without sitting through the full game. Or, using a feature called Snap, you can both watch/play a game on one side of the screen with the TV feed running in a small window off to the right.