Xbox One Bundles Kinect Because Microsoft Had No Choice
by Amy White
Microsoft has caught a lot of flack for bundling the Kinect with Xbox One.
After backpedaling on many of their initial policies, some were surprised that Microsoft didn't budge on unbundling Kinect.
Thing is, when they say it's 'required' for the console to work, they don't mean that they need Kinect to spy on you while you play CoD whether you're using the camera or not. They mean that the Kinect is literally critical to letting the newest XBox do what they've promised it will.
How? Well, that's a story that starts in the 1950's. Really.
Xbox One wants to be the one box that unifies your living room. That is not a simple task.
Your living room is a war room of competing technologies, barely held to a Cold War agreement, to support a few common electrical connections and fiat standards that have become so common, they can’t be ignored.
People almost never buy all their equipment from one manufacturer all at the same time.
The challenge for Xbox One (and anyone who's ever tried to hook up more than three consoles to a single TV, or install their own surround sound) is that connecting all those different gadgets is incredibly challenging, despite industry 'standards.' Manufacturers agree on some standards, but only when forced to. They routinely add their own tweaks, require codes or specific cabling without telling each other, basically operating in their own bubbles.
Emerging standards such as HDMI CEC for control devices connected via HDMI, but support for HDMI CEC is only on the newest devices. Only the most recent Tivo and almost none of the installed Verizon set top boxes support it, so that really isn’t an option for the Xbox One to lean on in the battle for your livingroom.
There is one standard that all devices do support, because they have to have it for remotes to work: Infrared.
Mmmm... Sweet progress.
Underlying all of that awesome is Infrared, which was invented by Robert Adler in the 1950s. To unify devices, you need to be able to control them all. So, if you want to overcome the warring standards, you have to go way back to the one standard that is almost ubiquitous, especially for older devices--infrared remote controls.
Xbox One reviewers have caught on that...
"Unlike the PS4, the Xbox One does not support HDMI-CEC, relying instead exclusively on IR blasting to turn on your TV and cable box..." - anandtech.com
But no one seems to have put together where that infrared signal is coming from. When you do, all the pieces fall into place.
Microsoft has a technology that emits gobs and gobs of Infrared: Kinect.
The Kinect is one of the most amazing inventions of modern times. That sounds like hyperbole, but the accuracy, ease of use, the motion control, and the individual person detection is just wildly superior to the other offerings, and it will get better in this generation.
if you want to overcome the warring standards, you have to go way back to the one standard that is almost ubiquitous, especially for older devices--infrared remote controls
Microsoft could have chosen HDMI CEC, but would be completely reliant on a standard which is not ubiquitous at all, leaving many Xbox One owners out in the cold on the very features intended to sell the new console.
Microsoft couldn't unbundle Kinect becase Xbox One uses Kinect's infrared blasts to control the other devices in your living room.
Without Kinect bathing your living room in Infrared, you just have a game machine. Microsoft wants to deliver much more than that.
So, if you’re wondering why their messaging was so forceful about how you “had to have Kinect” and it would be “always on” and the Xbox “would only work with Kinect connected," etc., then Infrared--a standard made useful in the 1950’s and adopted universally in the 80’s--is your answer.
Without the integration provided by Kinect bathing your living room in Infrared, you just have a game machine, and Microsoft wants to deliver much more than that. Question is...
Why didn't they just tell us that in the first place?
It would have made a lot more sense.
2nd image used from markelwood.blogspot.comOriginally Published Nov. 21st 2013