On May 21, 2013, Microsoft ended months of anticipation by presenting, at long last, the gaming console that will take gaming to the next level and beyond. Priced at $499.00, you are now able to buy a Windows XP Media Edition PC, which Microsoft is branding as Xbox One.
According to various reviews, the new machine will come with capabilities such as streaming TV, Skype, internet browsing, and is rumored to play games as well. Or, in the words of Tatiana Morris, at the GZ Roundtable, "What is your ideal gaming console? Is it a console that can stream TV, Skype or browse the internet - as well as play games? Wait, we already have that don't we? That is essentially a PC."
At its initial release, Xbox One had some significant differences from Windows XP. When Microsoft released XP, back in 2001, they created quite a stir when users learned their computers would have to "phone home", in Redmond, Washington to register the new operating system (OS) installation with Microsoft, and would create a database of on board hardware, so that copy of the OS could not be used on another system--or even the same system if it was modified significantly. It was Microsoft's contention that by sharing copies of earlier versions of Windows among several PCs, users were robbing Microsoft of millions of dollars. Linking the OS to specific hardware was, apparently, the only deterrent to that piracy.
Over time, however, the brouhaha died down, as the new system inevitably proved itself to be reliable and more robust than its predecessor, and besides, a one-time connection to automatically register the software was not really so draconian.
Skip ahead to the release of Xbox One, and a new generation of - anti-theft measures, with Digital Rights Management (DRM) that required the system be turned on at least once a day or, much preferred by Microsoft, left on all the time. The system, as initially announced had restrictions on who you could share games with, and whether or not you could play a "used" game.
These measures, which far outstrip the meager requirements of Windows XP, were not met with a great deal of praise from the game-playing populace, whom Microsoft seemed to have momentarily forgotten in their constant march toward "One OS, One Platform".
In the time since the date of that initial presentation, several things have happened. The first was a bit of good-natured marketing by Sony, the makers of PS4, Xbox One's only real competition. In that presentation, Sony shows that their PS4 system will be as "socially friendly" as ever.
The second event had far more reach, and infinitely more reaction. That event was the revelation that the NSA has been spying on virtually every U.S. citizen, and that, during Operation PRISM, internet hubs, such as Microsoft, may (or may not) have cooperated with the government's massive data collection efforts.
For reasons known only to executives at Microsoft, but easily guessed at by the consuming public, on June 19, 2013, the President of Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, Don Mattrick, published a letter to the public on the Xbox product site. In his letter, he contritely explains that, perhaps, Microsoft had miscalculated in some of its assertions regarding what the public really expected from the new device, and what they simply would not accept, in a post operation PRISM world.
As a result, when one buys a new Xbox One, one is purchasing a system on which the user may play games online or from a disk, Skype friends and family, browse the internet, and stream TV completely untethered from Redmond. In the words of Don Mattrick, "After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again." Just like Windows XP, which is fitting since, as of this writing, Windows XP retains more market share than Windows 8, Microsoft's latest OS offering.
There remain two significant differences between a PC running Windows and Xbox One. The first is that a user of Windows must explicitly add a "webcam" to the system, whereas the Kinect camera, used to map out user motions as input commands, is part of Xbox One. The second major difference, according to James Plafke, of Extreme Tech, "As for the very last bastion of Microsoft’s ruthless policies, it doesn’t seem like the Kinect policy has changed — you’ll still need to keep your Kinect plugged into your Xbox One if you want to play your games. This, though, wasn’t ever really too terrible to begin with since you can just drop a towel over your Kinect or stuff it into a drawer if you’re that paranoid."
Paranoia, Mr. Plafke, is an irrational fear. Microsoft is actively competing with Google for marketing dollars.