Slow off the mark
Call me late to the game.
Thanks to some seasonal shopping mishaps involving nephews, games, and shipping difficulties, I'm now the proud owner of an Xbox 360 -- a good 12 months after the original launch. And after having set up the wireless networking features (a two-step process: plug and forget), plugging into Xbox Live, and seeing exactly what Microsoft's
Make that two responses: "Wow," followed by "Why didn't I know about this before?"
I'm not talking about games here. Yeah, my wife enjoys pounding the stuffing out of me in Electronic Arts'
From where I sit, the Xbox 360 looks like the clear leader in the running to produce the digital-media home hub that Microsoft and others have been promising for years. Don't get me wrong, I knew the Xbox 360 could stream music from other Windows PCs in the home, along with photos and video, but I'd never seen exactly how simple the system has become, and how well it works. (Good news for those running Windows XP -- the Xbox 360 will stream your video now, too, so long as you install Zune software and enable media sharing.)
In fact, in light of the Xbox's current capabilities, I'm amazed that vaporware like Apple's
Where's the love?
Still, this is a major step forward from the overly hyped, overly complex media-center PCs from Dell
Another major benefit, I'd argue, is that the living-room-induced couch-potato psychology makes it a lot easier for us to pay up for downloads than when we're sitting in front of a computer. And finally, the Xbox marketplace's seamless service interface is a lot slicker than Amazon's
Bottom line is, this is slick, easy, convenient, and a powerful way for everyone in the family to enjoy new media.
So, this Microsoft shareholder has to repeat that opening query: Where's the love? Why don't more people know about this? Why hasn't Redmond done a better job of promoting this excellent non-game content?
Need for greed?
On one hand, I can see why Mr. Softy wouldn't bother to spend too much advertising the Xbox 360 this holiday season. Boneheaded moves by the competition have handed Microsoft a historic opportunity to gobble market share without doing much more than ship units to the nearest Best Buy
Thanks to limited production runs for the Sony
But I also think Mr. Softy is missing an opportunity to broaden the Xbox 360's appeal beyond traditional gamers. If it were marketed as an entire media center for the living room, it might bring a few (million, let's hope) consumers off the fence -- and make some buyers out of people who never would have considered the console.
Microsoft really ought to take a page from the buzz around the Wii. This season's must-have gizmo is making waves as a new paradigm in the living-room game -- a product for everyone.
We all know Microsoft likes to start out slow in new markets, but I think the Xbox 360's on-demand and streaming media capabilities are impressive enough that the company should be hitting the accelerator. No need to sit back and let Apple collect all of the "ooohs" and "aaaahs" early next year when it releases iTV to the usual rapturous applause.
You've got the better product now, Mr. Softy. Flaunt it. First off, don't make me dig into the Xbox website to know what's going on. I'm not sure the PR and a bit of media coverage is enough to turn heads.
Next, how about running a few ads that downplay the bone-crushing tackles, the roaring space fiends, and Nazis spraying lead at the screen? Maybe try showing moms how cute their babies look when their photos and video are running on the 42-inch widescreen courtesy of that Xbox they thought they'd hate. Remind TV fans that their favorite bit from Chappelle's Show, Veronica Mars, or Pimp My Ride is only a click away.
Make sure that everyone knows the Xbox 360 is not just a hardcore gamer's toy, but the hub of the digital living room.
With the Xbox 360 console looking like it's no longer a loss leader for Microsoft, and a user base of more than 4 million in Xbox Live, this is a business that could soon make a real mark on the profit line. Take the message to the streets, Mr. Softy, and make it happen.
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At the time of publication, Seth Jayson was waiting for Microsoft to fix that stupid MS Points system and let his Xbox feed mobile video to his Zune. He was also long Microsoft calls and common, and had shares of Electronic Arts. He had no positions in any other company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.