Microsoft this afternoon debuted the Xbox One live from its Redmond, WA, campus, putting an end to months of speculation around the company’s next video game console. The system will be available “later this year.” Microsoft executive Don Mattrick called it an “all-in-one” box. The core strategy is “simple, instant, and complete.” It was announced alongside a new gamepad and a new Kinect motion camera.

The console itself is all black and features a two-tone finish with both matte and gloss; a slot-loading Blu-ray optical drive sits out front on the left, while a power button with the traditional incomplete circle symbol is emblazoned on the right side. The new Kinect powers the console—”Xbox On” is being touted as the most important feature. There’s instant switching from the Xbox One dashboard to live TV, and a live demo showed off impressively fast speeds. “Switching between live TV and all your favorite games and entertainment is now as simple as using a remote,” Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi said. He also demonstrated gesture controls for the UI, quickly jumping back to the dashboard with a pinch command.

The UI features an updated version of the Xbox 360 Dashboard (the tile system we’ve seen in Windows 8). The dashboard has a new trending window, along with the standard stuff you’re used to: games, music, movies, and so on. The trending concept includes all of the console’s media functions as well as games, with integration in the TV guide.

The console sports an eight-core CPU, USB 3.0, WiFi direct, Blu-ray, 500GB HDD, HDMI input and output, and 802.11n wireless. These upgraded specs allow for speedy multitasking and much more powerful games.

Xbox Live will also see a major update, with 300,000 servers providing the service. “Your content is available and it’s stored in the cloud,” said Microsoft’s Marc Whitten.

Andrew Wilson of EA announced during the event that EA’s sports games would be available on the Xbox One “in the next 12 months.”

It’s interesting that game consoles are trying harder and harder to become our central media hub. We’ve seen this tactic from Sony’s PlayStation, Microsoft’s Xbox, and even (less successfully) the Nintendo Wii. I look forward to seeing how many people embrace the idea of the Xbox One being the center of their entertainment, compared to those who just use it to play games.

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