Long gone are the days when a game console merely had its launch lineup of games to worry about -- in the modern era we also have to know about other types of entertainment. Microsoft is finally ready to reveal the "first wave" of apps that will arrive with its $500 Xbox One in each of the 13 launch markets and it's a surprisingly healthy list. In the US we're not seeing any services that weren't already on Xbox 360, but internet video standards like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, HBO Go (not at launch), Vudu, Crackle and Redbox Instant are all present and accounted for along with TV everywhere efforts from Fox, CW, ESPN and Univision. International audiences can expect to see locally available services like Netflix, Lovefilm, Orange and Canal+, where applicable (check the official blog for a full list).
While there are no apps for Time Warner Cable, Comcast, or AT&T's U-verse at launch, Verizon FiOS is present and accounted for as a traditional pay-TV provider in the US. The most notable missing app award would have to go to YouTube or BBC iPlayer (both are also absent from the PS4 apps list), although the console's integrated browser could help with that.
There's no word on specific integration options with cable boxes for any service, but changes gamers will notice moving from Xbox 360 to next-gen are in how apps support the system's new features with Kinect 2.0, Snap multitasking and SmartGlass. Last but definitely not least however, are the integration of Bing Search and OneGuide. Microsoft is leaning heavily on the idea that it can organize your viewing experience in a new way, with OneGuide at the center of that idea (assuming of course, that users have Xbox Live Gold -- these feature largely won't work without it). Using the console's HDMI passthrough and IR blaster abilities, you have one central place to favorite and directly access live TV, apps, content within apps including Hulu Plus, NFL and Xbox Video, or even your own pictures and videos via the SkyDrive app. The same goes for Bing searches across music, games, and music, which is already present on the Xbox 360 but becomes truly unique -- and possibly useful -- with the integration of traditional TV services.
Gamers can even earn achievements or participate in "featured challenges" using the apps, although that turns the Xbox's carrot into a more direct marketing tool in a way we're not sure we appreciate. The system's launch -- and day one software update that will actually activate most of these features -- is just weeks away, and we'll know how well Microsoft's dream of One way to access your content on the TV comes together then.