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  (Source: Paramount Pictures)
Many of the media center features are only unlocked once you purchase a $60 USD yearly membership

Remember that slick DVR system to allow the recording of gametime videos, the voice-controlled channel guide (OneGuide TV), and the SmartMatch game match pairing service for the upcoming Xbox One?  Well in turns out Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is not intending those features for everyone.

I. Pay or Get Out

In order to "unlock" them, you have to pay an extra $60 USD a year for an Xbox Live "Gold" membership.  Xbox Live currently comes in two flavors -- "Free", which has no charges, and "Gold" which has an annual fee, but offers some unique perks (e.g. the free download of "Crackdown" currently available for Xbox 360 "Gold" level subscribers).  The Xbox 360 did set a somewhat similar precedent; it only offers access to the Internet Explorer (IE) browser to "Gold" customers and only allows "Gold" level customers to have access to their Netflix, Inc. (NFLX) account via their console [source].

Microsoft currently has 48 million Xbox Live users.  Of those an estimated 50 percent are "Gold" subscribers (Microsoft doesn't release statistics on the number of "Gold" subscriptions).  For them this won't be an impedement.

Xbox Live
Here's a list of some of the features Microsoft is placing behind a "Gold" subscription paywall.

But for the "Free" members or those who don't use the Xbox Live network at all -- which account for an estimated 24 million + Xbox Live "Free" users, plus the estimated 30 million some Xbox users [source] who don't subscribe to either service, your console will lose some of its key selling points.

Microsoft's console, which launches in November, is already priced at $100 USD more than Sony Corp.'s (TYO:6758) PlayStation 4.  
Xbox One
The Xbox One

II. Xbox -- Controversy in a Black Box

Other controversies are also still surround the console.  Its "always on" 1080p camera, along with Microsoft's allegedly voluntary data sharing agreements with the U.S. federal government have some fearing the new console will act as a "Big Brother" device, watching citizens' living rooms at all hours.  Microsoft has countered these claims saying it will include "robust" privacy protections with the Xbox One, however it stopped short of saying it wouldn't share video of you with the government.

Kinect 1080p
Microsoft's always-on camera feeds may be shared with the U.S. gov't.

Another controversy is over the cloud gaming features of the Xbox One.  The console has the ability to offload computations to the cloud, which Microsoft claims will make the console five times as fast, allowing for much better games.  Experts like John Carmack of id Software have called shenanigans on that claim, saying the Xbox One was on par with the PS4, even with cloud computing considered.  But what cloud offloading will certainly do is offer gamemakers an easy route to make their games unplayable offline.  One Microsoft executive was quoted as saying that he "hoped" gamemakers would use cloud computing to make their games unplayable offline.

PS4 devs in theory could also use cloud computing, and even potentially make their games unplayable offline.  However, it would be much harder to do so as Sony does not provide them with pre-packaged APIs for this purpose, meaning they'd have to write their whole offloading backend themselves.

Originally Microsoft also wanted to institute daily digital rights management (DRM) checks, which would effectively brick your console if it wasn't connected to the internet.  Former Xbox chief Don Mattrick (now CEO of Zynga Inc. (ZNGA)) fed the flames when he said that users with less than 100-percent reliable internet didn't deserve an Xbox One and should settle for an Xbox 360.  Facing a firestorm of criticism, Microsoft begrudgingly backed down, but still is standing firm on the controversial cloud computing drive.

In the good news column Microsoft did confirm that the Xbox One's latest hardware build received a GPU speed bump, which put it virtually neck-and-neck with the PS4's GPU.  That would explain where John Carmack's commentary that the consoles were pretty much identical in computing power came from.

Source: Microsoft

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Not quite
By bug77 on 8/8/2013 7:52:32 AM , Rating: 2
Microsoft has countered these claims saying it will include "robust" privacy protections with the Xbox One, however it stopped short of saying it wouldn't share video of you with the government.

Well, the issue is whether they'd share or not. As long as they store said video, they can be coerced to share.
Of course, nothing stops you from placing something on/in front of the camera so it's pretty easy to enforce your privacy. Annoying that you have to, but easy.

RE: Not quite
By therealnickdanger on 8/8/2013 8:01:19 AM , Rating: 2
I'm guessing that if you cover it or turn it around, it will pop up continuously with messages about calibration and not allow you to actually use the console. Microsoft has repeatedly stated that the XO is integrated with Kinect and won't work without it. I assume that goes beyond simply detecting that it is plugged in.

The Gold requirement to use features freely available to anyone without an XO is just stupid. That's why we sold our 360s and went PC-only for all our TVs. Fewer dollars spent, better gaming performance, and all the benefits of an open platform.

RE: Not quite
By half_duplex on 8/8/2013 9:35:35 AM , Rating: 1
Yeah I'm also guessing MS has already thought about people trying to cover the living room facing video camera.

How did we get here? A game console that always has to be online and equipped with a surveillance device? I

guess the commies were right, if they can't take over from the outside, they'll take over from the inside.

RE: Not quite
By rdhood on 8/8/2013 10:43:10 AM , Rating: 2
A game console that always has to be online and equipped with a surveillance device?

No living room facing camera that is always live will ever exist in my house.

Can you say "1984"?

MS is slowly screwing the pooch on this one.

RE: Not quite
By polishvendetta on 8/8/13, Rating: -1
RE: Not quite
By jnemesh on 8/8/2013 12:03:37 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, because the idea of our government using our own technology against us is just TOTALLY crazy, right?

RE: Not quite
By Motoman on 8/8/2013 12:43:12 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, there's no way they would do something like record information about every phone call and email every citizen in the USA ever sends and then store it in a database just in case they ever wanted to look through it.


RE: Not quite
By flyingpants1 on 8/8/2013 3:21:31 PM , Rating: 3
I think the main issue is that people just don't understand the implications of mass surveillance. They literally think, and then state out loud, "Who cares if they're spying on me, I'm not doing anything wrong!" Wow. Okay. Here's a hint, the government is not spending billions to just find out what you had for lunch. They're not doing it to catch criminals, either.

Surveillance like this is used to target political dissidents. If you don't understand what that means, you have no business talking about it.

RE: Not quite
By xti on 8/8/2013 4:04:13 PM , Rating: 1
i would say now Perry is gonna come to my house and clobber me, but you said I cant talk about it.

agenda pushers complaining about agenda pushers. nice.

RE: Not quite
By NellyFromMA on 8/8/2013 4:32:37 PM , Rating: 2
Um, I mean... did you ever apply your logic to cell phones? They are always on sensors too... It's really essentially the same... it even always records your conversations and location...

RE: Not quite
By half_duplex on 8/8/2013 8:46:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yes I have, but a cell phone unfortunately is something that I can't do without at this point.

But realistically, it's just been in the past few years that they've turned into such tracking devices. I do as much as I can to turn off features that collect data.

RE: Not quite
By GulWestfale on 8/8/2013 8:04:08 AM , Rating: 5
even easier would be to not buy one.

RE: Not quite
By retrospooty on 8/8/2013 8:06:17 AM , Rating: 3
"even easier would be to not buy one."


RE: Not quite
By Motoman on 8/8/2013 11:01:33 AM , Rating: 3
That's just it. The hits just keep on coming from MS, don't they? The fact that *anyone* is still contemplating purchasing these things is absolutely mind-boggling.

RE: Not quite
By retrospooty on 8/8/2013 6:25:12 PM , Rating: 2
"The hits just keep on coming from MS, don't they? The fact that *anyone* is still contemplating purchasing these things is absolutely mind-boggling."

Even more astounding is the people that not only still want it, but are online defending it.

RE: Not quite
By bug77 on 8/8/2013 8:50:47 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not getting one. The only console I own is a Wii and I got that out of sheer curiosity. I was just thinking about people who will and want to tuck it away when not using it.

RE: Not quite
By Da W on 8/8/2013 5:00:15 PM , Rating: 1
Think sending all this location data to Google via your android device is better?
Next time vote for a president who will enforce the US constitution. Stupid americns.... :)

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

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