Xbox One: A Gadget Only Microsoft Could Make

Last’s weeks Xbox One release was met with shouts from fans, detractors and longtime followers of the company’s plays in the consumer space.

Of course, the most noise originated from users who aren’t fans of the decisions made by Microsoft as of late. There was also an audible cheering from fans who are simply ecstatic to have a next-generation Xbox One to call their own. Though both extremes are valid, I think those paying attention to Microsoft’s handling of the Xbox One will realize that the device perfectly encapsulates Microsoft as it is today.

Take the company’s approach to the console itself. Rather than create a next-generation gaming system that simply allowed users to do the same things they could on the Xbox 360 with higher fidelity, Microsoft choose to put future entertainment ambitions at the forefront. Sure, the Xbox One is a next-generation gaming system, buts it’s also a television set-top box that comes closer to meeting consumer standards than most living-room focused products.

Microsoft_Xbox_One_consoleInstead of relying on DVDs and just an updated controller, the company made the decision to ship every console with a completely overhauled Kinect sensor and set a baseline for what users expect from its future consoles. Yes, attempting to innovate while facing a competitor who’s perfectly content with not pushing the envelope and coming in at a lower price is bold.

All of these decisions didn’t exactly harmonize Microsoft’s base of users. There are some gamers who are absolutely offended by Microsoft’s decision to create one device that costs users $100 more than the competition. Many users weren’t fans of the Metro interface that Microsoft introduced in Windows 8, and you can bet they aren’t too happy with having that same interface here. Early on Microsoft was even willing to upset the used game market if it meant it could, theoretically, make it easier for gamers to switch games and share digital titles with friends and family. Yes, it back tracked on that it, but there are still users clamoring for both of those features. This is a Microsoft that isn’t afraid to make tough decisions that everyone won’t agree with. It’s not a characteristic we’ve much of from Microsoft until recently.

Finally, the Xbox One is a device that only Microsoft could have created. The console’s headline features are a perfect snapshot of just how many businesses and technologies Microsoft has. The foundations of Xbox OS belong to Microsoft’s HyperV and Windows businesses. Its voice and search technologies are from the TellMe and Bing Teams. Its Cloud Compute servers are powered by Microsoft’s Azure platform. Microsoft is one of the few companies who could create a project like this, and this is the same company industry watchers browbeat year after year for not working in unison.

Of course, there are things here that perfectly represent one of the biggest things this “new” Microsoft gets wrong. We all know that the Xbox One will evolve overtime, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, the Xbox One’s software doesn’t feel done. Big name apps like Comcast and AT&T U-Verse are flat-out missing, Xbox Music lacks access to the same music video catalog users had access to on the Xbox 360.

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The Xbox One doesn’t allow users to customize it outside of pinning apps in one section of the Dashboard and changing their tile color. This is an issue we’ve seen with Windows Phone and Windows too. Not a single product outside of what SkyDrive and Outlook feels done by the time it goes to consumers. I suspect that it’s a side-effect of shipping software products so often. However, I don’t think end users care why it’s a constant struggle for them as much as they want to see one idea fleshed out in an initial release.

Like it or not. The Xbox One is Microsoft as it exists today. A bold, divisive, monolithic company who prefers to meet deadlines in the hopes of not arriving into a market too late. I suppose whether these characteristics are good for the Xbox One or Microsoft as a whole depends on whether consumers respond well to either.

Comments

  1. Tom Gordon says

    The Xbox was built by Ballmer. Ballmer is not exactly batting 1000. The disk problems show that it was rushed to market. Ballmer believes that rushing to market with poor quality is better than holding off like Apple or Rolls Royce does. I think that not until Ballmer is replaced will Microsoft get back on track again. Elop thinks that Xbox is crap, I agree with hime, and he wants to get rid of it and Bing which is a total waist for Microsoft executives.

    • Mr Nate says

      I have an Xbox One and do not have a disc problem. This machine is a beast. I sit down to eat, say “xbox on” grabbing my sandwich instead of the remote to fumble through inputs and say xbox go to tv and I’m scarfing my meal. Then when done I say xbox go to call of duty ghost and I’m instantly transported. No disc issues. Just great ends. My fiancé comes in and the Xbox one recognizes her and she sais xbox go to my fitness then she does the workouts. Some complain about disk space. Xbox gold provides users unlimited space and games can be started during download. I don’t see the issue.

      • Tom Gordon says

        You sound like a paid commercial. Microsoft is spending so much money on these commercials and these bloggers instead of innovating. They need to not be spending their money on bloggers and negative commercials. Microsoft should instead be making products. What does this sound like for a company. Google, Apple and Samsung are sprinting with their advancements in self driving cars and heads up displays while Microsoft is making negative commercials and these stupid bloggers who don’t even sound like people. This gut sounds like a commercial. Reread this guy. Does he think that we don’t know that he is just another example of what Microsoft is doing wrong.

        • Mr Nate says

          Not paid by Microsoft. Last gen I actually chose, and still have a PS3 as it had the free online where 360 required gold pay to play online. But since Sony chose to move to a pay for online model with its games on ps4 I decided reevaluate and give Microsoft a chance and have no regrets. Im off to order pizza and play some Xbox One. Cheers!

        • ratpack says

          Although I agree with some of your points concerning MS and their lack of innovation, I disagree with your conclusion about the Xbox One. I believe it’s a much more innovative machine than the PS4, by a mile. The PS4 has nothing out of the ordinary, it’s simply a machine put together with standard PC components.

          Though the Xbox shares this same architecture, it does so much more. You may even say they are much riskier than the reserved approach Sony took.

          Features I’m referring to:
          Kinnect (Voice + Gesture controls) – Don’t bother comparing to Sony’s camera
          HDMI in
          Media Capabilities
          Cloud – Again, don’t bother comparing to Sony
          Skype
          Snap
          True multitasking

          There’s a lot there. And to make it all happen they used virtualization it has been said. There’s a lot of innovation there.

          And no, I’m in no way paid by MS, I just call it as I see it.

        • Edwin Rodriguez (@WixosTrix) says

          You do realize that product engineers and their marketing guys are completely different divisions right? They’re marketing isn’t in any way hindering their product development. This is in fact, an issue that Apple has, where their marketing guys can kill a feature if they say they can’t market it. I’m not gonna say Microsoft isn’t doing any astroturfing, but I can attest to what Mr Nate said. If you don’t think what they’re doing with the Xbox One is innovative, then you really don’t know what true innovation is sir.

    • Edwin Rodriguez (@WixosTrix) says

      “Ballmer believes that rushing to market with poor quality is better than holding off like Apple or Rolls Royce does.”

      You mean like Siri, Apple Maps, iOS7, Mavericks, and the new iWork with missing features from the last?

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