XBox One – A Competing Set Top Box

This week saw the launch of XBox One, Microsoft’s long awaited gaming console announcement and it appears to have left a lot of confused pundits in it’s wake.

The confusion can basically be summed up as “Hang on a moment, didn’t we come here to see a gaming console announcement, what’s all this stuff about TV?”

A few years ago my product team at chello Broadband was lucky enough to get our hands on a copy of the original pre-launch XBox live from Microsoft to see how it performed on the network. This meant that my product managers were the envy of the company as they spent most of a week playing games.

However, by the end of the week two things had happened; first everyone had had an enormous amount of fun and second we were pretty much convinced that this was a highly disruptive technology to our business.

At the crux of it was the fact that the XBox had a hard drive and was capable of playing live streamed video across a broadband network. Essentially this could be a competing set-top box in the living room using our network to provide over-the-top services. Microsoft positioned the XBox very firmly as a gaming console but it didn’t take too much imagination to see what it might become as soon as they had decent market penetration.

In one sense I was wrong though, the re positioning of XBox as an entertainment console wasn’t as imminent as I’d feared. It’s taken Microsoft about 10 years to get there, and maybe that’s as it should be, after all, it could be possible to argue that it’s taken that long for us all to get comfortable with the idea of streaming media. Ten years ago the media industry wasn’t mature enough in it’s attitude to digital distribution either. There really is a market now, and a large one.

So we shouldn’t be surprised at Microsoft’s positioning of the XBox. They’re not after providing you with a gaming console, their vision is bigger, they want games and a big chunk of the home entertainment market and they’ll fight the digital service providers for it!

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