Microsoft is seemingly doing a bang-up job with its Xbox division, especially when it comes to console hardware like the Xbox One S and now Xbox One X with 4K abilities. What the company has not done well with is home media functionality in its Xbox One Media Remote ($25).
I get the focus on gaming and the downplaying of TV – a 180-degree shift from the original Xbox One wave that resulted in Microsoft getting decimated by Sony. However, that does not mean Microsoft can't handle two (or even three) things at once.
Xbox One Media Remote is just bad
The Xbox One Media Remote is not a new accessory. Announced in early 2014, I have been using one since it came out. After all, I'm one of those people who bought an Xbox for media consumption like Netflix, Hulu, and Sling, and I only game about 30 percent of the time.
Hardware-wise the media remote is great. It's svelte, smooth, and it lights up when you grab it. The buttons work well, and the battery lasts forever.
What is bad is the functionality. Relying on old-school infrared (IR) blasting, you need to point the remote directly at the Xbox to hit its teeny IR receiver. It feels like most of the time you need to double press the keys to make up for all the false signals.
I get the reason for IR: battery. Just like your TV or cable box, remote IR takes very little to power it. Nonetheless, the current experience is terrible.
Please add microphones and Xbox Wireless
The one thing I cannot figure out is why Microsoft does not build a remote with its own Xbox Wireless connect technology that it uses in its wireless controllers. Sure, it may require you to have to recharge the controller after a few weeks, but Logitech seems fine with that, as seen in its $300 Harmony line of remotes.
Third-party companies such as Razer are wisely adding Xbox Wireless to headphones, which knocks the price down by $100 and gives gamers an excellent experience.
Don't get me started on Microsoft Kinect. Hey, if Microsoft wants to throw out the Kinect technology for Xbox instead of evolving it – fine. I may disagree, but I also understand some of the issues surrounding it like price, game developers not using it, and consumers not caring for it.
But why not put a microphone into the Xbox One Media Remote? Amazon and Apple both have fantastic remotes for their Fire TV and Apple TV systems respectively, and both have microphones. You press a button and ask Alexa or Siri to fetch you some sports or the latest movie from Disney. It works wonders.
There is no point in having Cortana for Xbox if you cannot access the artificial intelligence. If you buy an Xbox One S or Xbox One X, there is no Kinect (and the adapter is super clunky). Imagine an Xbox remote that had a nice big Cortana button on it. You'd ask it to launch a game, fire up Netflix, or find a particular movie. Every other company is doing this already, and Microsoft has all the components:
- Console? Check.
- Voice-enabled cloud A.I.? Done.
- Separate media remote? Been there for years!
- Engineers with the know-how to make this happen? Of course.
What's missing is the desire. Apple, Amazon, and Roku are all competing for the small box in the living room, but Microsoft should be able to outdo all of them with the power of Cortana, Windows 10, and its impressive hardware division (now overseen by Surface guru Panos Panay).
Make it happen, Microsoft
Nonetheless, the company is more than capable of improving and leveraging its technology to make the Xbox One S and Xbox One X the one box for your living room (see what I did there?).
Engineering a new rechargeable remote with a Cortana button and Xbox Wireless support (and an IR blaster for your legacy components) seems like a no-brainer. There will be problems to be solved, but that is Microsoft's job – to innovate.
Right now, Microsoft is sitting on its hands while Amazon, Apple, and Roku run away with AI search technologies and other advancements, despite having pioneered many of them. There's no reason for it, and someone at Redmond needs to take some responsibility here.
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