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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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Beating this dead horse one more time...
By Nekrik on 8/8/2013 11:19:17 AM , Rating: 1
So essentially, to unlock all the features of an Xbox 360, Xbox One, the next gen XBox, and the one to come after that, you need to buy a gold account. You should be able find them for about $35 several times a year with a tiny bit of effort. You can keep whinning about it, or realize that it is more likely that Sony will also slowly move more in this direction than MS is going to move in the other. Just accept it for frickin frackin sake. It's the business model they have in place, don't like it, don't get one. Anecdotally, one of the best parts of the Live Gold account is it seems to have a net result of not having so many 8 year olds screaming just to hear their voice, idiots spewing crap because they're bored, and keeps the people who seem to do nothing but bitch about everything they can off the system.

RE: Beating this dead horse one more time...
By jnemesh on 8/8/2013 12:07:31 PM , Rating: 2
No, I WON'T accept it! I ALREADY pay for Netflix...and I can watch it on EVERY OTHER DEVICE I OWN for no additional charge. What makes the Xbox so damn special that they need more money from me to access the content I ALREADY PAID FOR???

Also, Sony has now publicly stated that the PS4 will not require PS Plus for game DVR functionality, nor for streaming media, nor for access to the web browser. The ONLY thing it's required for is multiplayer gaming. On the PS3 it's not required for anything other than access to free and discounted games.

RE: Beating this dead horse one more time...
By Nekrik on 8/8/2013 12:49:27 PM , Rating: 1
So go watch Netflix there, why are you bitching if you have an alternative? Just to bitch?

The reason they have a right to make requirements like this is not because they are special, it's because it is their platform and they can design the business model how they want.

Case in point, from my previous down rated comment, this is a perfect example of why I appreciate the gold service, it filters out a lot of the people I hear on the PS3 network that constantly bitch about everything and whine to no end when they don't get things their way.

RE: Beating this dead horse one more time...
By karimtemple on 8/8/2013 1:58:56 PM , Rating: 2
So go watch Netflix there, why are you bitching if you have an alternative? Just to bitch?
This would be a valid response if Microsoft's value proposition wasn't a be-all-end-all device which eliminates the need for other boxes. But alas.

RE: Beating this dead horse one more time...
By Nekrik on 8/8/2013 2:38:21 PM , Rating: 2
Well, it can be a be-all-end-all device, it's just gonna cost a bit. I will agree with you to the extent that it would serve them better and make the console itself a more attractive Roku, AppleTV, etc... replacement if they did not require the gold service to access what is freely available on the other devices. But at the end of the day they have not done so.

I am curious what the actual reason for the why it is this way. I doubt it was a decision that was made lightly. My initial thoughts is the QoS they want to guarantee for media content delivery, which they can do with the gold but do not care to do for the silver accounts. From personal experience, a friend of mine has a 360 and a PS3, we watch Blue Ray on the PS3 for the best visuals between the two units when rent from RedBox, but the Netflix signal is always better on the 360, so we use it on that device. I would much rather pay and get a consistent hi-def signal than to have a free service that is inconsistent and often sent in standard def.

By flyingpants1 on 8/8/2013 3:24:40 PM , Rating: 2
Why give away those features? One year of Live is likely more protifable than selling a single XO at this point. The numbers probably work out.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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