Xbox 360’s release date draws ever nearer; can you taste the palpable anticipation across the web? Microsoft hopes to make this the holiday season of the Xbox360. Just as Christmas season 1977 was the Christmas of the Atari. Ah yes I remember it well, Christmas dinner…blasting alien space invaders. It was a truly misspent youth, and yes I am that old. But Xbox 360 is more than just a gaming machine, what seemed to start off as Microsoft’s way of keeping up with a possible new outlet for the online experience seems to be driving it forward.
Gates vision of being there for the set top internet experience is really coming together. It’s no secret Microsoft first entered the console games market, not necessarily simply to dominate online gaming. As the developer of the world’s most widely used operating system, Microsoft (like anything that big) is in danger of becoming of a dinosaur. And like anything that powerful (think of Kings through history) are in danger of losing their market-space objectivity. Bill Gates must have seen the writing on the walls back in the mid 90s with inventions like CD-i. Ironically CD-i was a collaborative effort between Philips and SONY but its implications likely got Gate’s attention in those days. CD-i didn’t really go anywhere in North America but it lead directly to the fruits of another collaboration between Philips and Sony, WebTV. Now WebTV must have been seen as a threat to Microsoft. Rather than dismiss the new internet-in-a-set-top-box experience; Microsoft bought it! So there was Microsoft’s first foray into the set top box market WebTV.
Xbox was seen as they way to stay on top of the wired set top box scene, however it panned out, Microsoft would be there. A few other things have been going on with Microsoft, like their own distilled version of the internet experience itself, MSN. A new arm of MSN is now MSN Music, Microsoft’s own music download service. Microsoft again finds itself competing with an old adversary, Apple and iTunes. Microsoft has driven the Home Theater PC with the HTPC operating system, Windows Media Center.
Back to Xbox360, not only is it going to be the top gaming platform at its release. But the most obvious competition pits it head to head against Sony and the PS3. Games fans are obviously concerned with specs, which is the ‘best’ gaming machine. While comparisons between the obvious competitors are fair game, Xbox 360’s pedigree is not really that of a pure gaming machine. Microsoft’s vision for Xbox 360 is that of a complete all in one media center package. It’ll come stock with Media Center Extender compatible with Windows Media Center. Xbox 360 will be fully compliant with the VC1, WMVHD formats that will allow you to play back digital programming in HD. 360’s will have a 20Gig removable and upgradeable hard drive. Xbox 360’s Music Player will rip your CDs and digitize your music collection.
"We see the Xbox 360 as replacing your CD player in your entertainment center, but also as the best digital media amplifier available," said Xbox 360 product manager Barry Steinglass. "Your PC is a great place to manage your music, but it's not always the best place to enjoy it. With Xbox 360 you've got one central place to listen to all your music on the best sound system in the house."
How long before Xbox 360’s Xbox Live service is bridged to MSN features like MSN Music? Xbox Live is geared to be a vast online marketplace, have your credit card number ready. Now all we need are movie downloads instead of having to go to the store and buy those crappy plastic discs.
Microsoft seems to have transcended fear of the writing on the wall that the set top box internet experience may turn their operating systems into fossils. Microsoft themselves are driving a vision of the wired/home entertainment/internet box forward. Who says 360 is just a gaming machine?