Is the new Xbox Steve Jobs' dream device?

The gaming console appears to easily manage a user's media and entertainment needs. Is it something Apple's co-founder would have liked?

By Kim Peterson May 22, 2013 4:11PM
© Nick Adams/Reuters
Xbox One is shown on display during a press event unveiling Microsoft's new XboxThe Xbox One is already many things to many people -- just check its Twitter stream to see the gamut of opinion -- but Slate Magazine throws out something especially provocative: Is it Steve Jobs' dream device?

The idea goes back to something Jobs, the visionary chief executive of Apple (AAPL), said before he died in 2011. According to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, Jobs mentioned a television set that could serve as the hub for all the consoles, devices and movie players in the home and easily access content online.

That's a dream that has captivated the tech industry for years, but what Jobs said was quite intriguing: "It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine," he said. "I finally cracked it."

What exactly did Jobs crack? And maybe, just maybe, did Microsoft (MSFT) crack it a couple of years later with the Xbox One? (Microsoft owns and publishes moneyNOW, an MSN Money site.)

That's the claim made by Farhad Manjoo, Slate's technology writer, after seeing the new gaming console Microsoft unveiled Tuesday. "Today, I saw something very close to Steve Jobs’ dream device," Manjoo wrote.

OK, before heads start exploding over in Cupertino, let's give Manjoo a minute to explain. Yes, the Xbox One plays video games, Blu-ray discs and television shows and movies streamed online. And it does all this seamlessly, he adds, so you don't have to keep jamming your television's input button to get what you want.

Finally, Manjoo adds, it's very easy to operate with just your voice -- just tell the Xbox what you want to see and it should serve it up.

"Microsoft has done what Apple has long been rumored to do," Manjoo says. "It has created a near-perfect living room machine, one that has the potential to finally make it simple for you to watch or play anything you want, from anywhere, very quickly."

But even Manjoo admits there are plenty of unanswered questions. And gamers were quick to jump on the Xbox One's flaws -- most notably that it won't play Xbox 360 games at all.

And there are concerns that you won't be able to play used games without jumping through some hoops. A game disc installs directly to the console's hard drive. But in order to play that disc with a second account, the account owner may have to pay a fee. According to Wired, Microsoft has a plan for used games but hasn't shared the details yet.

So by comparing this to Jobs' "dream" device, Manjoo is saying that it's about as close as we're going to get to some console that is able to glide through content restrictions, licensing issues and technological hurdles while at the same time seamlessly and instantly giving us the television shows, movies and games we want.

Will it be perfect? Probably not. But if Microsoft can get a few million gamers to grudgingly admit that it's good enough, well, that's an accomplishment that has been decades in the making.

More on moneyNOW

May 22, 2013 7:12PM

I thought Bill Gates had this same dream with Media Center and   WebTV...


Not to dis on Steve, just these guys were very in tune with what the future holds.  I can't say for certain which had the idea first, just saying.

May 22, 2013 6:49PM

I like it, mostly. I think it's a little to large and box like. I'll be supporting this. I'm a gamer and movie watcher. This an American company and I'll always buy American over Sony's systems, like the PS4, which is Japanese.

May 23, 2013 5:18PM

I was interested at the start of the reveal event , but i was rather unimpressed by the lack of emphasis on games and the larger emphasis on TV.  I was half expecting someone to dig rapper Xzbit out of mothballs to shout:

"Yo Dawg, we heard you like TV, so we built you an Xbox that allows you to watch TV...ON YOUR TV"

The news about used game support didn't help, that sort of business model was partly what killed the viability of DivX versus DVD's in the late 90s...I mean, I understand that the developers have to make some money as well, no one is denying that, but if i want to TRADE games with friends, there is no longer any point if we're each going to have to pay for the bloody thing AGAIN

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