Microsoft kindly invited us to the Saatchi Gallery on 14 July to show off products to be launched this Christmas.
On display were new hardware, including new HD webcams; blockbuster sequels Fable 3 and Halo Reach, and the stars of the show, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and the Kinect Xbox 360 motion controller.
Windows Phone 7
After a quick PR session, we were finally given a demonstration of Windows Phone 7’s abilities, and it became clear that Microsoft had not entirely given up on its total social network immersion, introduced in its disastrous Kin smartphones.
The operating system allows users to permanently stay updated with their friends and followers on all popular social networks with a constant stream of pictures and profile updates being sent directly to the phone - and will automatically update all the user's status changes as well. The phone also automatically adds phone contacts’ social networking details directly to the phone, so when viewing a contact, the user can also see their Facebook profile page, for example.
The user interface is unlike anything on the market currently. The screen will only show one area of the entire ‘home hub’, meaning the user has to scroll to views different areas.
Overall, we were impressed with its functionality. Although it operates unlike any other smartphone in the market, it did seem intuitive and easy to get to grips with. Our only worry, however, is with all the constant streaming of updates from social networks, how expensive the data charges will be.
Kinect is revolutionary - a controller that can map a person's body movements and replicate it almost identically on screen with their avatar has never been done before to this quality.
It isn't, however, that good.
The whole feel of Kinect is too clunky, all movements have to be too precise or it gets confused and God forbid someone else comes withnin six feet of the playing space, lest the machine beleive the player has suddenly grown an extra set of limbs.
The games, at launch at least, are just too casual for most gamers, and without the ability to play them sitting - or lying - down, we don't beleive it will attract mor than a casual audience.
With games designed to force users into as preposterously silly actions as possible, and a camera to show pictures of them at their worst moments, Kinect will be a fun equivalent to the Nintendo Wii for parties and general fun. But, expected to be priced around £130, and with the need to buy an Xbox 360 as well when a Wii only costs £170 new, we can't see it matching the Wii's popularity.