Microsoft NEEDS a new Xbox Media Remote to keep up with Apple, Amazon in the living room

Xbox media remote
Xbox media remote (Image credit: Windows Central)

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.

Xbox One Media Remote Review – Almost all the right buttons

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.

Amazon's Fire TV now has Alexa support built in and it's pretty great.

Amazon's Fire TV now has Alexa support built in and it's pretty great.

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

Microsoft is trying to balance a lot right now with Windows 10 development, Andromeda, Surface, CShell, and making sure core gamers are happy with the Xbox console and titles.

Apple is going all-in on its Apple TV with 4K and Siri.

Apple is going all-in on its Apple TV with 4K and Siri.

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.

Best Media Remotes for Xbox One

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.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.