The Real Digital Hub?

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Date: Thursday, September 30th, 2004, 18:53
Category: Archive

What if the rumors are true that Xbox 2 is part of Microsoft’s plan to bring the digital hub to market first? Is it a step towards bringing us the MSN Music store, and expanding the OS monopoly to our home entertainment center? Read on for more on Microsoft’s move into your living room…

Microsoft already has the Media Center version of XP, and the Xbox game console that’s essentially a stripped down PC. Rumors are flying about the Xbox 2 and what it’s specs will be and what it will contain. I got to thinking, why did Microsoft call it the Xbox? Why not the Xgame (ESPN lawyers aside) or the Xplay? The same reason the iPod is the iPod – it leaves it open to possibilities.
Game platforms are loss leaders ? they make money off of the games, the licensing agreements, and now more than ever, off the online subscriptions services (i.e.. Xbox live).
The Xbox could be a Trojan Horse that allows Microsoft to dominate the consumer electronics environment. How? All it would take is for Microsoft to tie in a few extra features it already has available to it. The current Xbox has a hard drive, can play music stored on it, connects to the internet, can play games, plays DVDs, and can output to Dolby surround sound and HDTV standards. Hmmmmm. It doesn?t take too much imagination to put together what the Xbox 2 (or maybe Xbox 3) could do…
Imagine you have a coax cable and a TV. Take one box that has the following features:
– Built in Cable modem
– Wireless base station
– USB 2.0 port (for wired game controllers, or other peripherals ? or a portable Media player)
– Plays Xbox games, and commercial DVDs
– Media Center software (DVR capability to record TV)
– DVD RW burner
– Wireless game controllers (Bluetooth?)
– Add a wireless speaker package (WiFi or Bluetooth?) or connectivity to a surround sound package, and HDTV/DVI output
Xbox live then morphs into an MSN account, which allows for multiplayer gaming, email, and a subscription based Tivo-like service for the DVR software. Eventually, you add on demand video, and maybe a VOIP service via a WiFi or Bluetooth box that plugs into your phone jack.
None of this requires anything new, no breakthrough technology. Heck, I already have most of it under my TV, but it?s a cable modem connected to an Airport Express base station, connected to a Linksys Router that plugs into my Xbox and my Tivo, with all the video going to my TV and all the sound going to my DVD player/home theater box. If you could integrate all that into one box, add a DVD-RW, a port for your portable music player, and then charge a subscription fee for online gaming (and oh by the way, now you have a perfect portal to the MSN Music store) and TV recording service, and Microsoft is well on it?s way to another monopoly position.
Viola ? the Microsoft digital hub. Am I the only one who feels this thing coming soon? It could be Microsoft?s long sought after (anyone remember MSN TV?) way into the mass market TV top area. If Apple?s serious about the digital hub, they had better beat them to it (in partnership with Sony? The AppleSonyPS2TivoVonage box) before Microsoft uses games to muscle into the digital music and TV business. And after all, if this box were available, I?d buy one today.

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