Xbox Insiders, you may see a radically different home screen the next time you turn on your Xbox One. Also, plan on picking up an Echo speaker if you want to continue using voice commands to send party invites and adjust your TV’s volume.
Microsoft announced what it’s calling the “experimental Home design” earlier today on its Xbox Wire blog. This updated design doesn’t really introduce anything news as much it does remove or reconfigure all the things that were already part of Xbox Home. Your most recent app or game still floats on the left side of your screen in a big rectangle. Five other most recent games and apps still float in the center of your screen. That being said, the tabs for Game Pass, Community, Mixer, and Microsoft Store are gone. The company says that the goal of this experimental Home design is to “let you jump into Xbox Game Pass, Mixer, Xbox Community and Microsoft Store quicker than ever,” which seems like a worthy goal to me. That being said, I’m not passing judgment on this until I’ve had some time to really toy with it in my own living room.
I don’t care who you are, voice commands are the best thing to happen to consumer electronics since quality touchscreens, especially if you’re someone who needs them to navigate your devices. Microsoft isn’t taking away voice commands, but it is offloading them from the console itself to speakers that connect to your console through the internet. Unfortunately, this has the side effect of stripping away everyone’s ability to use Cortana and a gaming headset for voice commands. It’ll also temporarily knock out the voice dictation keyboard. Microsoft says its working on a solution for that last part.
The company recommends people who want or need voice commands install the Cortana app on their smartphone, but I’d say it’s just better if you skip Cortana entirely and install the Alexa skill on your Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show or the half-dozen other Alexa devices Amazon sells. I started interacting with Xbox this way when I wrote How to Use the Alexa Xbox Skill to Control Your Xbox One.
If you’re not an Xbox Insider and don’t like change, rejoice for this update won’t come to all Xbox One consoles until this fall.