- Voice in the Wind Magazine Inc.
You might remember Microsoft’s failed attempt to getinto the smartphone market using the Windows 8 operating system (OS). It failed pretty badly. The obvious reason for this, is that the Windows series operating systems that Microsoft became known for are geared towards office workers. They were never built to be convenient. They were meant to get the job done – and they do. That’s why they are still used today in offices everywhere. At the time I wondered why Microsoft tried to do the exact same thing that Research In Motion (RIM) tried to do – work from a clunky operating system out. RIM, for those you who don’t remember, is the maker of the Blackberry smartphone and they nearly went bankrupt because the Blackberry OS wasn’t user-friendly enough to compete in today’s market. Ultimately they switched to Android OS instead. Microsoft on the other hand, had another option – work from the Xbox OS out.
I strongly believe that Microsoft will attempt to get into smartphones and tablets again. This time, however, they will use the approach that I am writing about today. As mentioned earlier, the Xbox OS will serve as the starting point for their products. They will use it on smartphones, tablets and maybe one laptop to begin with and see how it goes.
The reason I believe this will be successful is that the Xbox OS is already user-friendly, familiar and widely used. It has brand recognition. In short, the Xbox is an established smart device with a well known OS. This means there is no real learning curve for their customer base and a much smoother transition for the OS itself. I think this will mean it’s adopted pretty quickly and easily. Plus, it would mean gaming on-the-go. All you need is your smartphone and Xbox controller. Microsoft’s answer for the Nintendo Switch.
They will need to make a few minor changes to the Xbox OS before they proceed. The first change will be to add Microsoft Office apps to the system. Previously, the Xbox was video games only, but that won’t be the case going forward. The next change will be to enable the use of a keyboard and mouse. This should be little more than flipping a switch because all operating systems are programmed on computers to begin with and using a keyboard/mouse combo. It’s likely that the programming already existed, the feature was simply turned off as it wasn’t used for gaming. The final change will be naming it. Even today it simply says “Xbox” on the opening screen. This will need to be amended to allow for updating OS – likely becoming Xbox OS 1, etc. Heck, it might be labelled that way at Microsoft already, but it wasn’t necessary to show it before.
HOW IT WILL PLAY OUT
My belief is that Microsoft will change the computer and gaming industries dramatically with this move. They will sew together gaming and computing in a way that no other company has before. And no other company could. Microsoft is uniquely positioned to do this as they manufacture both gaming consoles and computers. They already have a large market share in both gaming and home computers, and plenty of capital. But let’s look at the competition a little deeper.
The best positioned competitor, by far, is Apple. It’s crazy considering that they don’t even have a console, but hey, million dollar idea alert! Anyone want an ‘iCube’? ‘AppleBox’?… we’ll think of something lol. Anyway, the point is that Apple has a user-friendly operating system and a large share of the smartphone and computer markets. They also have brand recognition. All they need to do is enter the gaming market. Easy!
Nintendo can succeed in the new market, thanks to building a niche as a kid-friendly game console. Mario saves the day! Nintendo would have to purchase a company like Alcatel (or the aforementioned RIM), who manufactures smartphones in order to compete but that is doable. The harder part would be to begin creating apps that support office functions (basically Microsoft Word, Excel, etc). Remember the paperclip that acts as a helper in Windows? I presume that Toad would play this role for the Nintendo OS because he was cast as a helper or assistant to the Mario Bros in the video game series. But yeah, filling out all the basic computer functions, with children in mind might take time and capital, so Nintendo might be late to the market compared to Microsoft and Apple. But at least they can survive.
Sony is in the worst position imaginable. They don’t have access to smartphones so they would also need to purchase an electronics manufacturer. And they still have to manufacture all the computer apps, without the aid of a franchise super hero. Worse still, they have no real unique purpose in the gaming industry. They are a knock-off of Microsoft, with no place to go. The games are almost exactly the same (only the flagship games are truly different). The target market is the exact same. The controllers are identical but for labels. Everything is identical to Microsoft but without a foot in any other industry. I can’t see any place for Sony to go (well, actually there is one place). The bottom line is that Sony is the biggest beneficiary of Microsoft’s current business model. They will be reduced to ashes, if Microsoft ever decides to bridge the gaming/computing divide.
As usual, I’m sure I’m pipe dreaming. Microsoft probably believes it will make more money with gaming and computing as separate industries, so I’m not holding my breath. Then again, I have seen technological revolutions before. I saw it when game cartridges became CD’s and the gaming industry took a giant leap forward in graphics and game size. I saw it when flip phones were replaced with smartphones. Nothing is impossible when in the technology industry.
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