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Welcome to the Microsoft ecosystem
6/6/2012 12:19:00 PM
E3, Los Angeles, CA
For all of us Microsoft fans who love our Windows PCs (that’s Windows 7 PCs), Office, and our Xbox 360s but who still occasionally glance admiringly at the Mac/iPhone/iPad ecosystem, this week's unveiling of Xbox Music here at the E3 event in Los Angeles was a landmark occasion. In much the same way that iTunes was the breakthrough service that tied everything together for Apple, Xbox Music threatens to finally do the same thing for Microsoft.
It’s only in the last year or so that Microsoft watchers have been able to discern the tiniest trace of a unification strategy for the company’s highly diversified hardware and software universe. Microsoft has killer software and services in the form of Windows 7 (and the upcoming Windows 8), Windows Phone, the various Office products, Xbox LIVE, and the recently added Skype; and they also have best-in-class gaming hardware in the Xbox 360 console and Kinect. But until now, there appeared to be little that linked the various products beyond a rather superficial Windows Live ID or Hotmail account.
With the release of the Xbox Music service, that is about to change. Xbox Music will be available for the Xbox 360, Windows 8 PCs, and Windows phones and tablets, suddenly giving Microsoft a powerful common denominator across multiple platforms. And don’t for a moment think that Microsoft's cross-platform initiatives will stop with music. In the same way that iTunes rapidly expanded to incorporate movies, TV shows, books and more recently the App Store, expect Xbox Music to rapidly grow into a multi-faceted entertainment delivery system.
Now Microsoft may not have anything close to the appeal of the iPhone or iPad when it comes to mobile devices, but it has something that Apple does not – and that’s the Xbox 360. The Xbox 360, which already resides in over 67 million homes around the world, is far and away the most sophisticated home entertainment system on the market today, and the ability to tie it into the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem will only make it more successful.
And Microsoft’s hardware and software integration plans didn’t stop with Xbox Music. The company also announced a new version of Internet Explorer for the Xbox 360, which will allow Kinect-style browsing through voice commands, and a potentially revolutionary SmartGlass app that will allow users to stream content and media from any mobile device to their TV screens. While all this is going on, Microsoft is busy incorporating Skype into Windows 8, and making sure that everything is accessible through its SkyDrive cloud storage network.
While Microsoft has had limited success with mobile devices – it looks like the Zune is destined to go the way of the Kin – its supremacy in desktop computing and living room entertainment is the perfect base from which to regroup and expand. Once Windows 8, Xbox Music and SmartGlass are in place, a Windows phone or tablet will start to make a lot more sense as well.
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