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Microsoft Unveils Its New Xbox One


The wait is over for many Xbox fans. Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled its next generation Xbox gaming console. It's called Xbox One. It's the first major revamp of the gaming system since 2005. In our business bottom line, NPR's Laura Sydell reports the new Xbox is designed to be an all-in-one system, an entertainment hub for movies, TV and games that should appeal as much to grandparents as it does to children.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Shortly after Bill Gates unveiled the first Xbox back in 2001, he hinted at a future where the Xbox was the center of the living room, the place where the family gathered around to be entertained. Microsoft's senior vice president, Yusuf Mehdi, laid out the vision again.

YUSUF MEHDI: What if a single device could provide all your entertainment? And what if that device could turn on your TV and talk to all the devices in your living room?

SYDELL: Mehdi says that single device is the Xbox One, and not only is it talking to other devices, you can talk to it. No remote or game controller needed.

MEHDI: Xbox, watch TV.

SYDELL: The Xbox One recognizes your distinct voice. Mehdi's able to retrieve and pick from his personal entertainment list.

MEHDI: Xbox, favorites, "Star Trek."

SYDELL: The new Xbox will come with the Kinect, which makes voice recognition and gesture controls possible. Users have a personal home screen. With a simple gesture in the air, Mehdi returned to his.

MEHDI: I simply spread my hands, grab the screen, and I'm back home. And if I want to get back to my movie, I grab and I'm back to the movie.

SYDELL: A couple of years ago, Microsoft purchased Skype. The video chat service is fully integrated into the Xbox One. Mehdi gets a call from a colleague on the TV.

MEHDI: D.J. calls in. Xbox, answer call. Hey, D.J.

D.J.: Hey, Yusuf. Thanks for having me. I'm happy to do it.

SYDELL: Skype integration will make it possible to have group video chats and watch a TV show with a friend while you talk about it with them. Michael Pachter is an analyst who follows the gaming industry. He said the new Xbox gets him to that place that the science fiction author Arthur C. Clark talks about, where advanced technology feels a little like magic.

MICHAEL PACHTER: When I was a kid, and it was, you know, Dick Tracy talking into his wrist radio and we thought, boy, the future, that's never going to happen, and here we are.

SYDELL: Based on the preview, Pachter thinks Microsoft may have a hit. Pachter feels that the old Xbox was perceived as a device for hardcore gamers. He thinks parents with young kids will see the Xbox One differently.

PACHTER: I think they're going to look at this, if you have a six-year-old kid or a four-year-old kid, and say, well, we do want to watch TV and we do want to Skype with grandma, and what the hell, there must be some content that's okay for these kids, and of course there is. I mean there's sports titles, if nothing else.

SYDELL: In fact, on the sports front, Microsoft made a deal with the NFL that integrates live football with fantasy football. Microsoft also announced a partnership with the director Steven Spielberg. He will be the executive producer of an interactive TV show based on the game "Halo." There's still a lot we don't yet know about the Xbox One - the price, the launch date, what Microsoft will do with all the information it collects about you and your family.

Microsoft says all will be revealed as it heads towards a launch date later, sometime later, this year. Laura Sydell, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.