So I didn’t think I’d be writing about Microsoft, but the direction they’ve taken with the Xbox intrigues me for a number of reasons. First, it’s clearly an attempt to branch out from “game console” to set-top-box. In other words, there are only so many 12 to 24 year old males in the world and they want to appeal to a broader market. Second, there is a massive market for the “second screen”. I.e., the use of a smartphone or tablet/iPad to comment on a TV show in real time. Clearly, Microsoft has decided that TVs are big enough to devote part of the picture to real time updates.
There are a few reasons why I think they have a tough challenge. First, people are going to be reluctant to throw away their Tivo boxes, etc. Sure, the Xbox has a pass through feature so you could, in theory, use them both, but unless it works really seamlessly (not something Microsoft is known for), then it’s going to be difficult for people to accept it. Second, there will be a massive amount of resistance from the cable box industry because they want to sell much of the same on-demand services that Microsoft will be pushing. Having said that, in my house, we have a MythTV DVR, an AppleTV box, a DVD player, and the TV itself. They’re all islands in terms of the content and interconnectedness so watching something on one means no access to the content on the other. It would be neat to have a single integrated UI for all of my media.
Clearly the next few years will be about traditional computer companies branching out from what we have thought of as “computers” to invading the space traditionally held by consumer electronics companies. We’ve already seen this happen with Apple and now Microsoft. Of course, one has to wonder about Sony. They’ve been doing both for a long time. You’d think they’d be much more ahead than they are.