Microsoft's Strategy for XBox Infinity (NextBox, 720...) Page 2

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  • ronuds 22 Jan 2013 20:12:09 21,781 posts
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    Jeepers wrote:
    beastmaster wrote:
    I gave up after "Seeing".

    Can I have a management summary please?
    In effort to win speculative battle for the lounge MS might release a console with dozens of features no one really wants, needs or can realistically use.

    Frunk seems like a nice chap tho.
    He never said it was a good strategy.

    Well, he may have, but I'm obviously not going to read all of that.

    Edited by ronuds at 20:13:02 22-01-2013
  • andytheadequate 22 Jan 2013 20:22:40 8,980 posts
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    beastmaster wrote:
    I gave up after "Seeing".

    Can I have a management summary please?
    Microsoft wants to control your living room and sell data about you to advertisers
  • SBfistfun 22 Jan 2013 21:17:37 190 posts
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    Good points ,interesting read :)
  • frunk 22 Jan 2013 21:30:05 46 posts
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    He never said it was a good strategy
    I said it was a clever strategy. It is a good strategy for MS... For us... Not so much...

    I think Sony has the better strategy if you are not not interested in all that crap and just want to play good games. As a business decision it is not so good as allows MS to grab that living room space that Sony really needs to support the rest of their businesses.

    But even with a more cut down OS, Sony can probably do most of the useful stuff most of would use every day. And I guess Sony own a lot of the content (Movies & Music) that will be on the MS system, so they win there too.

    Different companies, different business models. MS need this to keep growing.

    Oh and thanks for thinking I am not a jerk... I tend to be a commenter rather than a forumer...

    Edited by frunk at 22:31:40 22-01-2013
  • Psychotext 22 Jan 2013 21:36:06 63,006 posts
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    Ehh I don't know, I could see myself using quite a lot of that.

    I'm old and broken though. I'm sure all you cool young hip things like as little functionality as possible.
  • frunk 23 Jan 2013 08:52:36 46 posts
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    Ehh I don't know, I could see myself using quite a lot of that.
    Oh yeah... don't get me wrong. I think it's very cool and I would like it on my telly, but it is not really a "games focus". MS are more intersted in the living room and will use a wolf in sheep's clothing to get there. Once they establish themselves under your telly will they be bothered with games anymore? It is an expensive and loss leading business, full or risk and problems.

    I'm old and broken though. I'm sure all you cool young hip things like as little functionality as possible.
    Since the last time I coded professionally was a game on the Amiga I don't think I would ever describe myself as a cool, young or hip ;)

    Edited by frunk at 08:52:53 23-01-2013
  • chopsen 23 Jan 2013 09:09:14 19,995 posts
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    I thought a metro-style interface with kinect controls would be a feature since I first saw Windows 8. Also the remote control from any device thing is something that I am hoping someone would do. Hadn't quite considered the implications of the hdmi thing. We're talking about old style TiVo box here, aren't we? :)
  • RelaxedMikki 23 Jan 2013 09:18:40 2,571 posts
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    My management summary was:

    You can plug your satellite box in the back of the new XBox and then whizz little pictures of the channels around the telly by waving your hands, like in the movies.

    To be honest, I'm so easily wowed that I'd like that.
  • Deleted user 23 January 2013 10:20:36

    It seems like a sensible, and well reasoned post, and probably, very close to Microsoft's real strategy, because it has a few risks they don't place much importance on.

    The first risk, is underestimating the unification Google (with youtube) is providing, in the TV space for app enabled TVs, and the pace at which that is improving, and TVs getting more computationally powerful, to do more things.

    The other obvious risk, I see, comes in the form of connection complexity. That problem hasn't really changed since the days of VCRs. If you need a TV shop to connect it up, for all but AV people and gamers, that puts consumers off, and you will get resistance from TV shops, if they are treading on TV companies toes.

    More people now live on their own, and more of them want an all-in-one devices for simplicity and elegance. Internet TVs are getting really cheap, while getting good, things like, integrating Freeview HD (DVB-T2) recording, with just the connection of USB storage, is enough for much of the market, that have already bought tablets.

    Simplicity, price and features, make this a difficult project for MS. Short of making HD, and 4K TVs, with integrated xbox 720s, and giving away free smartglass tablets as remotes, I don't think they have enough pull factor, or a simple enough offering.

    Edited by vizzini at 10:24:08 23-01-2013
  • jellyBelly 23 Jan 2013 10:57:19 585 posts
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    It seems that the OP is very close to MS's roadmap for the next 5-10 years. However i believe that the living room as the nexus of digital entertainment has diminished in line with the increased power efficiency of phones/tablets/ultrabooks etc, and the modern lifestyle in the western world.

    People tend to travel more for work and pleasure and, from my own personal experience, also tend to carry devices that connect them to an app store and their digital libraries in a manner of seconds. So you could argue that the large majority of 'digital entertainment time' is spent either outside the home or in the home but at various other rooms. If MS manages to make inroads with their portable range (not looking very positive at the moment Windows phone had 2.6% market share in US last quarter) then i would argue that it would have a very positive effect to their under the telly box. Otherwise people will stick to the services they tend to carry around, Google/Apple/Amazon.
  • frunk 23 Jan 2013 16:21:40 46 posts
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    I don't think Google is making in-roads fast enough to be relevant in the TV space. Google TV has been out for years as a standalone box and it is expensive. The number of TV's with it built in is tiny - the TV/DVD manufacturers had a chance to unify but as usual they all did their own thing... Viera, Aquos, NetTV... every brand did it's own apps platform with very variable underlying hardware. So not only do you have platform fragmentation, within each platform you have further fragmentation as manufacturers tried to upsell each year. It's pointless chaos. Who in their right mind is going to dedicate resources to develop for that? Netflix, Lovefilm and some crap tends to be it.

    Google need to team up with someone like Sony to get their platform under TVs quickly in the form of PS3 & PS4 now to create a solid foundation or let MS run away with it.

    MS is making the connectivity issue a breeze - you just put their console the last thing in line with the TV... it will manage all the other devices and overlay it's goodness on top.

    MS are uniquely primed to fill this space as their new console will end up underneath 20 million tellies within a couple of years based on being an "okay" games console. Microsoft have then created a consistent and powerful platform on which to encourage Windows developers to create applications for. Once you get all those apps and snazzy Kinect functionality under the telly the box that does not play Xbox games becomes useful as it is a lower cost alternative (probably subsidized) to get the interface and apps (and ads) under the rest of the tellies in the house.

    Apple & Google don't have this advantage - they have to sell their box on their SmartTV features alone... not sneak it in as a games console which people are prepared to pay more for. They don't make games either and don't seem to have the interest to do so.

    Sony don't have the same ambition, interface or infrastructure to match MS in this area... but hell they know games, better than most.

    If Google got with Sony to put GoogleTV on the console then that would be a valid defence, but they would have to work on how it is controlled. Suddenly a Wii-U type tablet is a good idea :)

    Ironically Nintendo with the tablet were in an ideal position to do this but just have no interest in this type of thing.
  • frunk 23 Jan 2013 16:31:40 46 posts
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    I think you have some very valid points there. You are right. Being tied to the living room is not so important these days.

    However it does represent the last great untapped mass market currently available.

    MS are boxing clever on SmartGlass - it works pretty well on any tablet or phone (Surface, iOS & Android) - so they are making no assumptions you have to have a fully MS enabled household to get the capabilities. So the initial spend to get all the capability is dramatically reduced - you just buy an XBox Infinity.

    Microsoft desperately needs to succeed in a market, ANY market, as they are pissing away all the existing ones: PCs to Apple (and soon Linux), Servers to Linux, Office Suite to Cloud providers like Google, Tablet/Phones to Apple/Google. They are fumbling around in "cloud land" miles behind Google & Amazon. If they keep going like they are they won't have any customers but slow moving corporations who don't like rapid change which will clip MS's ability to do anything.

    I would say the new XBox is MS's last gamble for a long term future - they have a lot riding on this one, it can't afford to fail and they know it. They will fight dirty and plough money into it.
  • RelaxedMikki 23 Jan 2013 16:34:44 2,571 posts
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    I love it when they fight dirty and plough money into it.

    C'mon Microsoft, make me want you!
  • frunk 23 Jan 2013 17:12:16 46 posts
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    How hard can it be to walk into your room and say 'TV on. Xbox on.' and have everything start up?

    How hard can it be to have this customised to your own voice, and your own choice of words?
    If what I have guessed turns out to be true - it would be piss easy and a rather compelling feature. It would sell buckets.
  • oceanmotion 23 Jan 2013 17:13:13 17,320 posts
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    Hopefully not having to wave for Kinect to see you.


    "Hello Batman"
  • motorwrists 25 Jul 2013 10:10:20 1 posts
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    haha doubters. Frunk, do you secretly work for MS? You certainly have sharp insight into their control freakery.
  • frunk 26 Jul 2013 09:46:49 46 posts
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    Hehe - I don't - but the writing was on the wall if you cared to look.
  • BillMurray 26 Jul 2013 09:48:54 9,163 posts
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    Are you two a bit soft in the head?
  • frunk 26 Jul 2013 10:04:05 46 posts
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    Hey folks - based on this thread I did give DF a submission for an "In Theory" article for one of their "bait fanboy Saturdays" but they never even replied :(

    Anyway - it takes all the above - after feedback from you bunch of folks and turns it a little more into an article feel. So I have transcripted it here for those that are interested.

    It is a LONG read 2000 words - so no complaints on length... it's just here for a laugh - someone may read it.

    Bear in mind this was written in February - just after the PS4 reveal - we knew nothing of the XBox One.

    Very Smart TV
    Is Durango the Windows 8 Trojan Horse for your Living Room?

    Smart TV’s are rubbish.

    They are a fractured technology as every TV manufacturer pushes their own transitory standards in a desperate rush to get you to upgrade to this year’s model. There is no hope of a good applications marketplace within such a fragmented environment.

    Smart phones and tablets on the other hand have got their similarly fragmented house in order with a few underlying OS’s and some consistent mobile app stores. In 2013 it is estimated that around $30 billion dollars will be spent on mobile apps (Gartner/IDC), with 30% of that going to Apple, Google or Amazon amongst others as their cut of the deal. That is a big chunk of change by anyone’s reckoning.

    A few companies have tied up that space and Microsoft is not one of them, despite their best efforts and obvious ambitions. Breaking into an established game with your own ball rarely works and everything starts looking a little Zune.

    With mobile prospects evaporating one of the few remaining opportunities to put an application store in most people’s lives is within the living room. It is a broken and desolate landscape looking for a hero to come and unite it in a revolutionary fashion.

    Some have tried, none have so far succeeded. Apple has offered up an emaciated little box, only any good for interfacing to their own devices and their own content. Google has provided its own attempt at a more open solution but very few people feel they need the features it offers and even fewer can be convinced to pay the rather hefty price tag attached.

    To build an effective store of applications for your living room two significant hurdles exist.

    Firstly the user interface. Remote controls and onscreen menus don’t give the rich experience you need to build compelling applications expected by consumers. Refactoring computer interfaces through tiny touchpads and rollerballs in your hands just highlights all the negative aspects of those control schemes. Put either in the grasp of the non-tech savvy and it is a bewildering mess.

    Secondly, until you have built up a significant consumer base and can provide a huge array of useful content and applications in your online store no-one wants to pay a premium. The costs massively outweigh the perceived benefits, a problem Blackberry and Microsoft suffer in the mobile space these days. Users want to share compelling experiences with their friends, until both exist, traction will remain low.

    Enter Durango.

    While people argue the relative power of the incoming consoles the addition of several key features on the Durango seems to provide some insights on how Microsoft might overcome these obstacles.

    First are the rumoured multiple CPU cores and a 3GB RAM overhead for the OS and the addition of a hard disk. This is the footprint required for a “full blown” operating system based upon Windows 8. Microsoft has clearly stated many times in the past that it wants Windows in the living room. The OS will no doubt be a custom version for the new Xbox similar to the Windows RT variant for the Surface. This unifies the house of Microsoft and provides a rich pool of developers which can target the Windows Store within a closed platform entirely managed by Microsoft alongside their 30% cut of sales price.

    Next on the hardware list is “Kinect In” and the fact that multiple sources have stated that Kinect 2.0 is provided as standard with Durango. The reasons for its wholesale adoption start to become apparent once you take the OS into consideration. Take a look at the tile-based UI associated with Kinect on the Xbox 360 and the parallels with the tile-based Metro interface on Windows 8. If the new Kinect does indeed fix the fussy annoyances of the original with improved speed and accuracy then the UI problem is solved. By combining Kinect and Windows 8 you bridge the remote control issue and are able to utilise gestural and voice input, effectively turning you television into a large tablet. Most tablet and phone applications requiring touch screen controls can be simply refactored to use Kinect on the Durango. Microsoft is a world leader in these areas after their Kinect experiences and has been developing speech to text since Windows 95.

    In theory all the tools are there to overcome the technical obstacles, but these alone will not get Microsoft entrenched in everyone’s living room.

    Xbox is Microsoft’s “cool brand” able to reach across into the world of celebrity and one which consumers are happy to associate themselves. Many friendships have been made on Xbox Live which will naturally transition into the next generation if Microsoft continue to develop their trusty IPs. In short people will buy the next XBox if their friends buy the next Xbox, a social loyalty which Microsoft can capitalise upon to get their new hardware under people’s televisions.

    With the promise of Halo and Forza alone, Durango will sell a few 10’s of millions of units and kick start the critical mass for a Windows Xbox Application Store to materialise into viable reality.
    These early adopters kick start the eco-system but cannot alone sustain it into solid profitability. Microsoft’s ambition has to be mass market. This is where those other less explored hardware features on the Durango come into play.

    By far the most surprising and overlooked block on the diagram is the “HDMI 1.4a in”. Many commentators have simply dismissed this as an HD camera input for Kinect. Kinect has far more efficient and cheaper methods of connecting to its host hardware; to licence and implement the latest industry standards connector indicates a different role.

    The Xbox division’s recent acquisition of R2 Studios gives a good indication of this role. R2 Studios grew out of the SlingBox world which offered control of connected hardware by simulating remote controls, capturing content from these devices and streaming it to you on the move. The HDMI input and the rather ambiguous “Controllers” box on the diagram allows the Durango to fulfil this function. The Durango can now sit “in-line” with your existing cable box, satellite box or AV amplifier and your television bypassing the need to include a TV tuner. From there it can act as a DVR and stream live or recorded content to a Windows 8 PC or SmartGlass enabled phone or tablet. With the CPU & memory footprint provided Durango should be able to do this while someone else is playing games on the device.

    As the Durango can control your other devices by simulating your remote control, then the gestural and voice control afforded by Kinect can seamlessly integrate the other items in your setup. It should be entirely possible to walk into your living room and turn on your television with a gesture or get your Freeview box to seamlessly integrate to your Xbox by saying “Kinect, Record the Top Gear Series on BBC HD every Sunday”

    Finally the inclusion of WiFi Direct allows the Durango to act as a low latency wireless peer to a growing number of other devices, perhaps hinting at a more gaming orientated link between Durango and SmartGlass offering Wii U or personal OnLive type functionality like the PS4/Vita linkage.

    When all this is combined Microsoft begins to offer a compelling view of exactly how Durango will become the media hub in your home and turn your fairly dumb Smart TV into a Very Smart TV by embracing your mobile devices and offering you the content you want, where you want it.

    When Windows developers start to see the integration options offered by Durango and it’s growing user base there should be a flood of innovative applications to the Windows Store where Microsoft take their cut and increase the intrinsic value of the Xbox device.

    There will be a tipping point where people will just want to turn their TV’s into Very Smart TV’s but don’t want to bother with playing games. This is where the often rumoured second, less powerful, SKU comes into play. By stripping out most of the processors, memory and optical drive you can still use Kinect and everything on the Windows Store at a much reduced price.

    In one form or another Microsoft will be intending to get the Durango in 100’s of millions of homes. As well as the revenue streams from the Windows Store, Microsoft has a further ace up it’s sleeve. The recent investment on the perceived success of NUads gives an indication of how Microsoft could sell advertising on top of existing advertising as you watch your favourite programs; as the normal TV ad plays Durango recognises it and offers the Kinect enhanced version.

    So Microsoft can’t lose?

    Privacy advocates may have a thing to say when Microsoft can tell exactly what you are doing on your television as well as determine the number of people watching it along with their age, gender, build, race and e-mail if they are registered on the system. It is the sort of data marketers can only dream of getting – even anonymised it holds great value. It’s the sort of information that could make people feel ill at ease as they stare at the glassy lenses of their new Kinect.

    The competition will react. A deal between Google TV and the Sony platforms could be seen to undermine many of the media hub advantages seen in the Durango. There will be no fancy user interface but it may make people stop and think whether that is necessary or just a well marketed gimmick that is rarely used in real life.

    Despite much talk Apple is unlikely to make any serious moves. Even if they opened up the Apple TV ecosystem to a wider developer community via an App Store they would have to launch a new product with a suitable user interface to compete. People would be buying the product on its apps store potential alone. Just being an Apple fan does not put money into enough people’s pockets to buy a premium Apple product without a good gaming pedigree. With Microsoft they are buying a console first to play games, a technically capable device potentially offering many useful media features; an excellent Trojan horse in which to hide your revenue printing app store.

    Microsoft is banking the farm on this. They are risking the good will built up in Xbox over 2 generations of blood, sweat and tears. Any crack in their armour will be ruthlessly exploited by their competition.

    If Kinect 2 does not perform perfectly, their strategy begins to crumble. Consumers are a delicate bunch, any frustration or too many limitations will send people straight back to buttons and back to a level playing field with their competitors.

    If Durango is too focussed on the home market, their strategy begins to crumble. Internationalising a product that relies on voice control, gestures and untangling licences with hundreds of content providers across dozens of territories is notoriously difficult. Xbox is most popular in North America and the UK. Unless Microsoft can properly internationalise the technology and services they will alienate 90% of the population of the world.

    If Microsoft has overestimated the existing infrastructure of their potential customers, their strategy begins to crumble. If, like the Xbox, only 50-60% of your community puts the Durango online, that is a problem.

    The HDMI input is only any use if you have a device which can provide it and most broadcast media is still consumed via analogue cables. If the world does not operate at the same technology level as the rarefied halls of Redmond, that may be a problem.

    If their most loyal fans perceive Durango putting media and apps ahead of the games, their strategy begins to crumble. The problem with relying on carrying over Gamerscores and social pressure to buy a new console is that moods can shift very quickly. Early adopters tend to be the well-informed, technically competent hard-core and if Sony or Valve present them with a better gamer’s option all that good will can vaporise pretty rapidly along with the pressures they place on their friends list. They are in the market to buy a console that focusses on games and not a Very Smart TV trying to sell you Windows Apps.

    Edited by frunk at 10:05:30 26-07-2013

    Edited by frunk at 10:06:27 26-07-2013

    Edited by frunk at 11:08:37 26-07-2013
  • frunk 26 Jul 2013 10:13:09 46 posts
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    Hmmm... just re-read all the "possible problems" I anticipated at the end of that article. It looks like MS allowed them ALL to materialise. If a "Joe Public" like me can see these with no real information back in February... why the hell did MS not see then as they approached launch?

    MS management really does not deserve their levels of wages. Someone in there who can see the world for what it is would have helped a lot.
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