I don’t think I’ve ever hated a piece of cloth so much in my entire life.
It’s Monday morning in mid-April, and I’m sitting in a many-couched conference room at Microsoft’s campus in Redmond with three other entities: chief product officer Marc Whitten; senior VP of marketing strategy Yusuf Mehdi; and a pedestal in the corner with a cloth draped over it. For 30 minutes, the two executives have been talking about the future of Xbox—about the need to “re-architect the living room for the 21st century,” about “a new generation of entertainment,” and other lofty corporate statements that tend to go hand in hand with many-couched conference rooms. They’ve also been pointedly ignoring the pedestal. I know what they’re doing, and it’s working. I want to see what’s under that cloth, and it’s driving me crazy. Little-kid-on-Christmas-morning crazy. Very-nearly-squirming-in-my-seat crazy. Finally, Whitten takes pity on me, and he walks over to the pedestal. “Here it is,” he says; he lifts the cloth.
The front is nearly without embellishment; even the optical disc drive slot blends into the frontpiece of the box. On the whole, it looks more
like a TiVo than any gaming console I’ve ever known.
My first thought, honestly, is how boxy it is. In 2010, Microsoft released a “slim” version of the Xbox 360 that was literally streamlined, with a curvilinear X-shaped form that made its predecessor feel clumsy in comparison. The Xbox One is a bit bigger than the 360 and as rectangular as it gets. It’s not without its flourishes, though. It’s a deep, glossy black that the industrial design team calls liquid black. The top of the console is subdivided into two 16:9 rectangles, derived from the traditional aspect ratio of widescreen televisions—one is solid and glossy, the other a matte panel that’s entirely vented to help as much air pass through the system as possible. The front is nearly without embellishment; even the optical disc drive slot blends into the frontpiece of the box. On the whole, it looks more like a TiVo than any gaming console I’ve ever known.
The humplike battery pack on the controller’s underside is all but gone; the triggers and shoulder buttons are carved from a single graceful swath of material.