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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

Comments     Threshold

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Won't be buying one...
By jnemesh on 8/8/2013 12:01:08 PM , Rating: 2
Until and unless Microsoft puts IN WRITING that Kinect and Xbox data will NEVER be shared with the US Government in ANY way, shape, or form, I will be boycotting this box. It really takes BALLS to make the camera a REQUIRED item, and to REQUIRE it be on and CALIBRATED for the Xbox to work at all. NO THANK YOU!

RE: Won't be buying one...
By Nekrik on 8/8/2013 1:29:59 PM , Rating: 3
You will never get that sort of guarantee from any company, not Sony's North America branch, not Google, not MS, not anyone. They are legally obligated to comply with the laws in the countries they conduct business.

The companies can fight and resist to legal extent of the law, but at the end of the day if the government wants is, they're going to get it. That is why MS and Google are fighting to get more transparency into how, why, and what the government made them disclose. None of these companies are freely offering it to the NSA, they were legally 'compelled' to do so, they are also legally obligated to not disclose certain pieces of information related to what was taken, or why and when it was taken.

RE: Won't be buying one...
By Gurthang on 8/12/2013 12:53:43 PM , Rating: 2
I don't don't care for either console, though I'd love to wipe the XBOne hardware and install my own HTPC OS. But that is a topic for another day.

Lets go over some deatils, video even a highly compressed stream of dubious security value would be too much for any system to handle if we are talking about millions of devices. Even with a siri style system which only squirts a stream up when you activate it would be too much. The load alone it would place on networks would have ISPs banning XBOne upstream traffic.

The always on bit is just a fancier version of motion detection commonly seen in security systems. To keep things fast they are most likely generating some fancy hash code to match up against either a locally cached account or identities in the cloud. Sending the raw stream would be too slow and too expensive.

Could individual systems be hacked via some malcious app or MS cohersed by some government into using the XBone to spy on you.. maybe.. though it seems a lot of trouble to go through when getting some spyware on your webcam equiped PC, Mac, or phone would gather far more usefull data than your secret Kinectanimals habbit.

That being said requiring gold membership for some of these features is garbage.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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