The Xbox One - an opportunity missed



The Xbox One - not much to see here

The Xbox One – an opportunity missed

Remember when Microsoft was THE business that everyone in the world talked about? 

It was like the Roman Empire; its ruler (Bill Gates) was the richest and most famous person in the world.  Its centurions (Windows 95) were garrisoned in every country in the world.

In hope of cementing itself as an Empire that would stand the test of time, eight years ago Microsoft unveiled the Xbox 360.

At the time it was (apparently) ground-breaking.  I remember going to a mate’s place to play a basketball game on his recently-purchased console and I was amazed.

The graphics were so realistic; it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

So, it was with great pomp and ceremony that, late last week, Microsoft came back to the party to release the Xbox One – its updated version of the xbox 360.

Now, I’m no gaming or technology genius, and I haven’t researched this extensively, but so far I’m not exactly blown away by the new Xbox.

Other than TV connectivity (it seems to be trying to compete against Apple TV… good luck!), and a so-called Siri-lite (voice activated stuff) the best it can offer is a blu-ray player (which the Playstation3 had years ago) and built-in Skype (which peaked about four years ago).

But is that it?  Really?

I’m not alone in my disappointment at its lack of originality, as shown by this outstanding YouTube mashup of the launch.

In fact, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Since the introduction of Windows 95, I can’t remember a single mind-bogglingly innovative thing from Microsoft.  From the top of my head, all I can remember is:
  •         Introducing the Xbox (after the N64 and Playstation were already around)
  •         Introducing its tablet, the Surface (after everyone else had already put tablets into the market)
And that’s it!  Think about all the main Windows inventions you use most today: Word, Excel,PowerPoint, Windows… they’ve been around for almost two decades!

It’s little wonder Microsoft is on the back foot.  But why, when they’re already on the back foot (Apple, Google, Samsung and others have all stolen market-share from Microsoft) do they introduce another flagship device that, essentially, is just a slight upgrade from the same thing they introduced eight years ago?

Perhaps Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Balmer, is a little gun shy after the public’s muted response to Windows 8?

After all, he described the company’s latest iteration of Windows as a ‘bet the company’ moment, since they removed the Start Menu and redesigned the interface.

Unfortunately, this ‘bet the company’ moment didn’t go so well, perhaps best illustrated by Microsoft offering a downloadable app to allow users to re-install the Start button.

It was this moment that prompted the Financial Times to write: “[This is] one of the most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola’s New Coke fiasco nearly 30 years ago.”

For years now, journalists, analysts, CEOs and low-profile bloggers (like me) have been calling for Microsoft to bring something new to the table, and the launch of its new Xbox seemed like the perfect opportunity.

If ever you were going to prove to the world that the biggest name in electronics history was once again a serious player, the time was now.

Now it seems Microsoft is business that cried wolf.  Despite its fancy glittering product launches, the message being communicated is: we don’t have any cards up our sleeve.

And perhaps, like Rome, the Empire may be facing its last days.
 

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