Talking tech since 2003

A look around at TV set-top boxes shows that a couple of major companies are interested in the space. The Apple TV has been around for years. Google has tried to enter the living room through its Google TV initiative, and it’s rumored the company will try again with Android TV in the near future. Becoming that default home entertainment destination is a potential gold mine and these companies know it. Unfortunately, they’ve already been beaten to the punch by a company that, whether planned or accidentally, has installed the ultimate set-top box into the most living rooms and looks poised to add on to that number: Microsoft.

What started with a game console in 2001 has become not just the name of a system but a globally recognized and respected brand. A mention of the word Xbox and you instantly think of all the really cool things Microsoft is doing with technology, all the amazing stuff that has come out of this slow-moving giant. And the system itself has morphed from a simple games machine to something more complex — a full-blown entertainment option for the living room that not only plays the hottest titles but can also do Netflix, Hulu Plus and more. With certain cable providers, the Xbox 360 can actually become a streaming cable box, and the Xbox One’s integration with cable TV looks to blur that line even more.

And it’s not just media that the Xbox has shown its capable of, but apps, too. That area that Google has been trying so hard to crack, the same one that Apple fans are practically begging the company to explore, is one that Microsoft has already been looking into. With the Xbox One, using voice commands to snap a fantasy football app up beside the live broadcast of a game is going to feel like the future. It’s what Google TV should have been. It’s where the Apple TV is probably headed. And Microsoft will have been there all along, tweaking and perfecting the formula until it was just right. It’s so easy to bash the company’s shortsightedness in other verticals but as far as Xbox and the living room goes, Microsoft has got it right.

xbox-oneThat’s why selling Xbox is completely out of the question. More than that, it’s insanity.

When you think about Microsoft’s future, especially the one outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer imagines it will have as a devices and services company, Xbox is a crucial column in the structure. The company’s idea of a converging Windows experience across smartphones, tablets and PCs has a bit more draw if Xbox is also in the picture, doing things that other companies can’t really offer. And with the way the Xbox One was built, allowing cable to pass through so that the One’s operating system is running in the background at all times, it could quickly become one of the most used devices in the home — even when someone is simply watching TV. The One offers Microsoft a major opportunity to push its services through a respected brand that is on the upswing. And if folks get hooked there, who knows — perhaps a Windows Phone or a Surface Tablet in the future?

The truth is, the Xbox brand and the Xbox One console may be the best shot Microsoft has at pushing its services and future products. It may be the best way to bring customers into Microsoft’s ecosystem. Any CEO who doesn’t see the value in the brand and its products doesn’t deserve to be CEO.


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