Xbox One, a new console, a new console browser
Today Microsoft have finally revealed their new console, 8 years after they launched the Xbox 360. That was in 2005, before Twitter, and when YouTube and Facebook were in their infancy. And based on what they've announced, this is it – we really can't ignore console browsers any longer.
The Xbox was initially very late to the browser game. IE9 for the console was released at the end of last year. Both the PS3 and Wii have had browsers for years. In March, Sony announced their new console, the PS4, and revealed its controller, which has a "share to web" button.
The new Xbox isn't being announced as a game console, it's being announced as an all in one entertainment system, hence the name, "Xbox One". It has 8GB of RAM, and an updated version of the Kinect will come with the console. The new Kinect is massively powerful, it's sensitive enough to read your heartbeat, and will use facial recognition to sign in users.
SmartGlass (which lets you control the Xbox with your phone or tablet) also has a big part in the announcement, they mentioned it already has had over 10million downloads and it'll play a bigger role in interacting with the device.
You can very quickly switch inputs using voice. So to watch live TV, say "Xbox, live TV". Or "Xbox, Game" to switch a game, or "Go to Internet Explorer" to open up the browser. You can also use a "grab" Gesture to go back to the home screen.
And the most interesting feature: Snap Mode. This adds a panel to the right of the page which you can use to browse the web while watching film or live TV, for example, to search IMDB. You can control what's in the panel by using SmartGlass. You can also have Skype in the panel and make video calls with the Kinect. Or you can use it to display supplementary information that goes with the TV programme.
"Xbox is expanding the canvas… Only on Xbox, will TV become social."
– Nancy Tellem, Xbox Entertainment Studios
There are a few other interesting features, like native editing and sharing tools so you can share what you're playing online.
So why should web designers and developers care?
The Xbox One will offer greater integration between different media, allowing instant switching and multitasking between games, film, web and TV, so people are going to be using the console for a whole lot more than just gaming.
It's also much easier to get to the browser – you can just give a simple voice command, so people are going to be using it more. And the browser will be used more fluidly – rather than being a separate activity, it'll be used more in conjunction with another activity, such as looking up an actor in a film.
The console will make people a lot more used to using speech and gesture inputs, so it'll be interesting to see to what extent the browser uses this.
The Xbox One will be released later this year. E3 2013 is a few weeks away, and I'll be keeping an eye out for more announcements then. But in the meantime, now is the time to start thinking about how your sites will look and be interacted with on TV screens. I'd recommend starting with Jason Grigsby's excellent presentation on the TV browsing experience.