The secret may go back to the original Xbox, which Microsoft took great pains to avoid labeling a Microsoft product. This was the Xbox — not the Microsoft Xbox, not the Windows Box, not the Microsoft Console for Gamers with Controllers Edition. They wisely threw away all their typical, hamfisted nomenclature and just called it “Xbox.”
They did that partly because too-cool-for-school gamers would have turned up their noses at anything bearing the Microsoft label. But also it gave Redmond’s gaming division a little freedom from the company’s button-down straightjacket. This wasn’t the beige box from your dad’s office; this was a pure gaming rig.
It worked. Xbox never dethroned the Playstation 2, but it bought Microsoft all the cred it needed to compete in the living room. And Xbox 360 has gone toe-to-toe with the Playstation 3, and generally come up winning.
If any single company is going to dominate the living for the next ten years (which I doubt, but it is possible), that company will probably be Microsoft. If they execute on the hardware — no more Red Rings of Death — I full expect the Xbox One at the very least to become the first among equals. Sony and Apple had better be sweating. And Nintendo had best figure out a way to tie its handheld business into somebody else’s console.
But none of that is the real point. I didn’t mean to write a review of a gaming system I haven’t yet played. What I do see here is a remarkable — but probably wasted — opportunity for Microsoft.