May 22, 2014, 6:00 AM —
It's looking like June will be a good month for the Xbox One. We already knew there'll be a Kinect-free SKU coming for $399, and that the Games for Gold program (which offers free games and discounts to Xbox Live Gold members) will arrive on the Xbox One.
Now Microsoft has released details of its June Xbox One system update and there're some welcome additions this time around. The biggest is support for external storage.
The Xbox One doesn't have an upgradable hard drive (at least, not one where upgrades are officially sanctioned) and the system comes with a relatively small 500 GB drive. The Sony Playstation 4 comes with the same sized drive but theirs is user-upgradable. I dropped a 1.5 TB drive in my PS4 as soon as I got it.
With the new update Xbox One gamers will be able to attach one or two USB 3.0 drives that are at least 256 GB each. To give you a rough idea how much this will cost, Newegg is offering a 3 TB Seagate external drive for about $110. That ought to cover your needs for a while, and if not you could always add a second one.
Assuming the performance is good, I actually prefer this system to Sony's internal drive upgrades. If I ever want to go past 1.5 TB on my PS4, I'll have to replace the drive and figure out how to copy everything from the old one to the new one. By using external drives, Microsoft makes it much easier. If you manage to fill up two drives you can just swap one of them for a third and keep the full one handy for when you want to play the games housed on it. Microsoft also points out that you can unplug a drive, take it to a friend's house and plug it into his Xbox One, sign in and access your games there.
OK so external hard drive support has me excited, I'll admit. But there's more. Next up is the ability to use your real names instead of your gamertag. You'll be able to control this, deciding who can see your real name. This is another nice feature for folks who're putting the Xbox One's expanded friends/follow list to good use.
The new update also allows you to set an account to automatically log in when the Xbox One starts up. It's a small thing but I'm sure will be appreciated by people who live alone and only have one account on their Xbox One.
The TV features that Xbox One users in the US already enjoy will be rolling out to Canada, UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. I know a lot of hard core gamers sneer at OneGuide and watching TV through the Xbox One but it gets a lot of use in our house.
Last up are some SmartGlass updates. SmartGlass is the Xbox One companion app that runs on iOS, Android, Windows 8 and Windows Phone. After the June update you'll be able to control your TV and OneGuide via SmartGlass, which I imagine will be particularly useful for those of you buying an Xbox One with no Kinect. Sure you could use the controller but I imagine SmartGlass will be far more intuitive. Also in the SmartGlass are some tweaks designed to help you stay current on what your friends are doing in the Xbox world.
That's a lot of changes and improvements. Microsoft is just calling it the "June update" without a more specific date but it's logical to guess they'd want to roll out at least the SmartGlass improvements at the same time the Kinect-less Xbox One goes on sale on June 9th, and they seem to be packaging the SmartGlass and the Xbox One updates as a single event. A nice patch like this would also be a strong bullet point to talk about during their E3 press conference on the same day. So I'm predicting (or maybe just hoping) the update will hit early in June.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.