Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Xbox ONE

Not as anticipated as an Apple event, but Microsoft's XBox One launch was interesting, both for what they emphasized about their new console, and also what they did not mention.

If Microsoft was not in the console market today, I don't think they would choose to enter it. Windows, and the PC, is being assailed by Linux, iOS, Android, tablets, smart phones, etc. and Microsoft has not been able to defend it's home turf, or leverage Windows into these new worlds. These are they key existential threats to Microsoft, and they should take up all of the company's attention.

XBox One, therefore, should sort of be a B-team effort, with the A-players managing phones and tablets. But the presentation did not give that impression. We saw interaction experiences built from iOS deeply embedded into the console, in particular, voice command, gestural interface, instant task switching, and always-on service delivery. The whole thing feels like a bunch of apps.

In the last console cycle, HD graphics were the clear reason to get a console, and nothing like that exists today. I think some of MSFT's technology might generate legitimately better experiences, like good player matching, but overall there isn't any "must buy" feature for the hardcore gamer.

Actually, I think the ability to instantly task switch between TV's and games might end up being the most important feature for the marginal customer, because it makes it convenient to play console games more casually. Look for an XBox App store, with Free-to-play titles available for download and instant play soon. We'll know in February.


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