When gamers open up their new Xbox One game console on November 22, they'll discover a new "app channel" treatment that places their photos and videos alongside traditional channels like ABC and Fox.
Microsoft disclosed some of its plans last Friday, when it provided a partial list of the entertainment apps that will appear on its game console over the coming months. On Monday, however, the company delved further into how that experience will work.
Microsoft's made it pretty clear that the Xbox One will blur the lines between a traditional set-top box and game console when it goes on sale later this month. In addition to PC-like apps like Skype and Internet Explorer, the One will include the OneGuide, which looks like a traditional grid of channels and TV shows. But a separate layer will add "app channels," which will place highlighted content into a similar, traditional grid, and add Xbox "achievements," such as those provide by Amazon, above.
To get there, just say "Xbox: Bing SkyDrive," and you can get started, Microsoft said.
At this point, it's a little unclear how that grid is going to highlight content from the 19 third-party entertainment apps that will be launched on the console, including Amazon Instant Video, ESPN, Netflix, and TED. But on Monday, Microsoft explained a bit more how SkyDrive and its photo-sharing capabilities will be integrated into the console, providing a model for the other apps to follow.
Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service has been part and parcel of Microsoft's online services since 2007. Users can upload up to 7GB of photos, video, and other files into the online repository, and can set their Windows Phones, for example, to automatically upload photos into a "Camera Roll" folder.
Those Camera Roll photos will automatically display in the dedicated SkyDrive channel--no surprise there. But users will also be able to create separate SkyDrive channels to "follow" other users who share files. In one example, Jeff Henshaw, who runs the Xbox incubation and prototyping team, showed off how a coworker sharing his photos of a trip to Australia will automatically add new photos to his dedicated SkyDrive channel, as an image-based RSS feed of sorts.
SkyDrive can store virtually any type of video, but the Xbox One channel will only highlight videos and photos that will look good on a living-room TV screen, Henshaw said.
Showcasing what's new
"You can think of app channels as any media channel that wants to explose its content as a channel, can now do that," Henshaw said in an explanatory video.
Henshaw's Xbox One demonstration looked a little bare, with a dedicated Xbox Video channel showing a placeholder for "New Movies," for example. But it appears that the Xbox One is set up to provide a snapshot of what's new in the various content channels that you can view on your TV screen. If Netflix allows it, for example, it would seem reasonable that the dedicated Netflix channel will either highlight your list of movies to watch, or, more likely, a graphical list of new movies and TV shows that have been added to the service.
Playing back photos and videos stored within the cloud has been something that's been old hat for years. But placing all this content within a "channel" paradigm is a new twist. Perhaps in the future Microsoft won't bury these app channels on a back page, as it were, and helpfully suggest that an Xbox user could watch Skyfall on Netflix, without commercials, rather than wading through it on TBS.