Redmond has completely fumbled in mobile. Windows CE (aka “WinCE”) was the answer to the question nobody was asking: “Is there a phone I can buy that’s as crappy as Windows?” Windows Phone wasn’t the answer to the question everybody was asking: “What’s the alternative to iPhone?” Redmond jumped into portable music players with the craptaculent Zune, just in time for Apple to pull the rug out from under the mobile music player market by giving them away free with every iPhone. And did you know that Microsoft invented the tablet computer a decade ago? Neither does anyone else!
There’s more fail I could detail for you, but I’m feeling merciful.
But then there’s Xbox, where Microsoft showed how to make a winning consumer product by
• Making it good
• Not trying to make it conform to the Microsoft Way.
Is it too late to apply these lessons to mobile? Instead of forcing “Windows Everywhere” — into the phone you won’t buy, onto the tablet with no apps, wherever — why not go with the one winning consumer brand Redmond already has?
The Xbox Phone does everything your Xbox does, plus it makes phone calls and acts as a cool remote/controller/futuristic-applications for your console. They talk to each other in all sorts of cool, streamy, cloud-based ways. The Xbox Tablet does all that, too, but with a bigger, brighter screen. They function together as an ecosystem — the ecosystem MS has failed to build for its three — three — mutually-incompatible mobile OSes. Scrap Windows Phone and Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro for Fingers and Stylus and Mice and Stuff. Replace them all with “Xbox Go” or whatever the marketing weasels want to call it.
Wipe the slate (no pun intended) clean of all the geeky awfulness which has ruined Microsoft’s mobile efforts, and expand the non-geek brand 80 million Xbox owners already know and love.
Microsoft has done this once already. They could do it again.
UPDATE: The gamers’ long knives came out for me on Twitter after I linked this piece — which I have to assume from their comments they hadn’t actually read. “Gamers hate this, gamers hate that. Sony’s going to win even though they haven’t revealed Playstation 4 yet.” Blah, blah, blah.
What they don’t get it, consoles — at least this console — isn’t about hardcore gamers anymore. They just aren’t a big enough market for the stakes involved. The only reason Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo were able to sell as many last-generation consoles as they did, was by moving well beyond gamers, by adding lots of entertainment- and family-friendly features.
That trend will continue, and it will accelerate.
Sorry, my gaming friends, but that’s the way it is.