The Xbox One is getting major media updates: here's a breakdown

Microsoft has just kicked off Gamescom 2014 by announcing a plethora of new features coming to the Xbox One -- some you may have known about, and some not. First up is a much anticipated feature: a new app will soon turn the Xbox One into a media player, letting you stream movie and audio files from a USB key or DLNA network. Microsoft's Major Nelson has promised that the console will support many more media formats than the Xbox 360 did, including new file types like MPEG2 TS, animated GIF and MKV. A preview version of the app will arrive first with USB support, while DLNA and certain file formats like MKV won't come until later. (For a list of compatible file formats, check the source, and look after the break for a demo of the new features.)

Still on the media front, Microsoft also announced some interesting TV-related features. You'll soon be able to boot directly to your TV from standby mode -- which will make it easier for non-gamers to just watch TV without a hassle. Another new feature coming is SmartGlass TV streaming: if you're in another room, you can watch shows over your home network on a SmartGlass-equipped tablet or smartphone on Windows, iOS or Android. That'll let you change channels and pause, play or rewind shows, all while still playing games on your Xbox One. The latter feature will arrive first to European countries receiving the new Xbox TV tuner by the end of the year. On a related note, regions with OneGuide will also get a mini guide that displays program information at the bottom of the screen.

For gaming, there's some new but important features, especially for chat users or social types. The new Friends section that rolled out to early access members will now come to the general preview program. To remind you, the new features let you keep up with your friends' activities at a glance, showing the games they're playing and a Gamerscore leaderboard. There will also be a brand new Snap Center where you can see messages, parties, friends and achievements in one place without leaving a game -- a feature that Xbox 360 users were sorely missing. And if you message a lot, you'll now see full conversation threads without pausing gameplay -- including full discussion histories with embedded links and game clips.

Finally, Microsoft re-iterated that it's hard at work readying the Xbox One launch for 29 new countries, up from the 26 it announced before. It said it's still on track to release the console "in the coming weeks" to countries including Japan, Russia and Switzerland.