The Xbox One is supposed to revolutionise the way we watch TV, with voice and gestural commands letting us search and change channels without pressing any buttons. But Microsoft will be putting out a physical remote control dedicated to media watching anyway. Y'know, just in case the revolution takes a while.
The Xbox One Media Remote will hit in early March for about $25. Here's how Microsoft describes it:
Releasing across Xbox One markets worldwide in early March, the Xbox One Media Remote lets you control video playback for Blu-ray movies and streaming video on Xbox One*. Additionally, there are dedicated Back and OneGuide buttons. The OneGuide button provides one-touch, quick access to your favourite TV shows and movies through the Xbox program guide**. This simple, yet powerful remote is designed to help you listen, watch and switch among experiences instantly.
The Media Remote can also control TV/Receiver power and volume through Kinect, which uses IR blasting to send signals to your TV and/or receiver.
Manufacturing a dedicated accessory to make sure users can do stuff that other parts of the Xbox One hardware package — namely Kinect — are supposed to handle is a bit of a weird choice. Microsoft has said that a Kinect-free offering isn't in their plans. The fact that the remote uses Kinect seems to testify to a long-term commitment to the sensor, keeping it integral to the Xbox One experience. They could've made a remote that didn't use the Kinect but they didn't do that. And don't forget that, along with Kinect's voice and gesture input, Smartglass and gamepad options for steering media playback on the console already exist.
Microsoft can, of course, change their minds about the future of their hardware bundles. For now, the new peripheral appears to be a way for Microsoft to have their bases covered as far as various usage scenarios. This seems to be just yet another alternative to people who would prefer a more familiar approach. "Xbox, pass the remote. Wait, find it first." If only.