Microsoft Rolls Out Red Carpet for Xbox One Streaming Apps

Microsoft unveils the first batch of TV and entertainment apps for the company's next-gen console two weeks before it arrives on store shelves.

next-generation games

Xbox One buyers may flock to new gaming experiences, but Microsoft is also keen on positioning its upcoming new hardware as a capable, voice-enabled streaming box with no shortage of entertainment options.

Microsoft "set out to make Xbox One the all-in-one games and entertainment hub for your home," resulting in the "one system that offers the best games next to the best entertainment experiences and apps," Marc Whitten, Xbox chief product officer, said in a Nov. 8 Xbox Wire post. Since the Xbox One's pre-E3 unveiling May 21, the tech titan has emphasized its TV and multimedia capabilities.

Aided by the bundled Kinect motion sensor, users can issue voice commands to search for TV shows, movies and music and launch apps that stream entertainment into their living rooms. In demos and promotional videos, the Xbox One has been repeatedly shown to be able to switch between TV, movies, music and games with near-instant responsiveness and "snap" different activities for Windows 8-like multitasking.

Now Microsoft is providing a clearer picture of what entertainment options will be made available for early adopters. "Along with offering a stellar app portfolio from around the world, Xbox One takes the next step by offering them in a way that is seamless and easy to use," added Whitten.

In the U.S., Microsoft said that 19 TV and entertainment apps will be made available during the launch window (between Fri., Nov. 22, and spring 2014). They include online streaming heavyweights like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu Plus, along with cable TV companion apps from Verizon FiOS TV and HBO GO.

ESPN, The NFL on Xbox One and Univision Deportes are targeted at sports fans while video game aficionados can catch replays using Twitch. Rounding out the initial wave of entertainment apps are Crackle, CWTV, FOX NOW, FXNOW, Machinima, MUZU TV, Redbox Instant, Target Ticket, TED and VUDU. Each of the other 12 regions will launch with apps tailored to those geographies.

"These apps have been built from the ground up uniquely for Xbox One and are designed to harness the power of the all-in-one platform," stated Whitten. In addition, exclusive "Snap experiences" and once game-centric achievements earned by Xbox users are coming to entertainment apps, "offering everybody the opportunity to achieve badges or rewards for the media they consume in addition to gaming."

And there are more apps to come. "We will continue to announce more apps coming to the platform and both the Xbox One and Xbox 360 entertainment app portfolios will continue to grow weekly," predicted Whitten.

Personalization is another key element Microsoft is leveraging to keep users glued to the Xbox One. "You can create your own personal Favorites in OneGuide—the Xbox One electronic program guide—so you can quickly and easily choose what you want to watch," said Whitten. A user's customized OneGuide can include TV channels, apps like Hulu Plus, and even videos and photos stored on SkyDrive, he said.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...