Microsoft is plugging the holes in the Xbox One experience, announcing a new media player app that’ll allow the Xbox One to understand dozens of new formats and a new streaming television system based around the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner dongle announced this past week.
Microsoft revealed the changes coming to the Xbox One’s software in a post on its Xbox Wire news blog just this morning, shortly before its Gamescom 2014 Xbox Media Briefing was set to begin.
First, there’s the social and basic changes. Since the Xbox One arrived on store shelves last year, Xbox One owners haven’t been able to shake the feeling that the console’s many apps and services feel separate from each other. We don’t know what it looks like yet, but it seems Microsoft is going to try fixing that problem by bringing back an old trick from the Xbox 360: a unified place to access relevant information.
Called the Snap Center, users will be able to read messages, create parties and track their achievements without switching outside of the Xbox One game they’re playing. If it sounds familiar, it’s because the Xbox 360 used a Guide to achieve this same level of connectivity. When users access their messages, they will be organized around threads, making it much easier to track conversations on Xbox Live. A new Friends section will sit alongside the Store, Pins and Home areas when users start their Xbox One too.
Today the Xbox One does a pretty decent job at mixing different kinds of entertainment – provided that none of it is stored on a flash drive or external hard drive. Soon, Xbox One owners will be able to load different types of media to their Xbox One. Thanks to a new Media Player app coming soon the Xbox One will be able to play around 34 different media types. Working media types will include everything from animated gifs and songs downloaded from iTunes to video downloaded from the internet or recorded on a smartphone. When it debuts, the Xbox One Media Player app will have support for just flash drives and hard drives. Later on though, Microsoft plans to add DLNA streaming support so that users stream media from their phones or tablets to their Xbox One.
When Xbox One users in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain purchase the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner that Microsoft revealed last week, they’ll be able to use the console’s SmartGlass app to actually watch that content directly on their smartphone or tablet. Unfortunately, Xbox One owners in North America won’t be getting that capability, but Microsoft is adding a few new must-haves features to the television experience in the United States. Mainly, users should look out for a miniature version of the OneGuide app and the option to start their console and have it go directly to TV instead of having to find the TV app first.
The company also confirmed that digital games pre-ordering is on the way, but won’t arrive until late September.
All told, it’s a pretty robust offering from Microsoft. Many of the features being added to the console are those that have been requested and voted on by Xbox Live users on the console’s UserVoice profile.
Though Microsoft seems perfectly fine revealing these new features, the company doesn’t seem to have a hard time table for when the features are coming, saying that users should expect them in different updates over the next few months. If Microsoft stays true to form, we’ll see them pop-up in releases of the Xbox One Preview before they arrive on all Xbox One consoles.