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Microsoft to Enter Handheld Market? 177

Posted by Zonk
from the banner-day-for-portable-gamers dept.
eldavojohn wrote to mention that, via Joystiq, he read an article over at BusinessWeek that indicates Microsoft may be working on a portable media device. The article states that, if they are, they're not just going after the iPod. The plan would include a way to leverage a powerful part of the Microsoft empire: games. From the article: "Microsoft would probably use the Xbox brand to market the gadget. 'I think the brand is an opportunity,' Moore says. True, perhaps, but also risky. If the new device comes with the Xbox brand, most consumers will view it as a game player, like Sony's PlayStation Portable. That might limit its appeal, since the portable gaming market is much smaller than the one for digital media." A funny comment, considering the success of the DS.
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Microsoft to Enter Handheld Market?

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  • A Third Portable? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Excors (807434) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:56PM (#14568957)
    This subject was on Gamasutra a short while ago: A Third Portable? [gamasutra.com]

    Last week Gamasutra asked our professional audience, "What hardware capabilities and software would be needed for a third company to create a competitive rival to the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, and which companies might be capable of doing so? Should they try?"

    [...] Of the cited companies who might possibly compete in this area, Apple and Microsoft were by far the most mentioned, with many readers citing Xbox Live and iTunes as superior distribution mediums.

  • by Musteval (817324) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:57PM (#14568969)
    XBox Portable. Only two cubic feet. Weighs less than twenty pounds. A whopping megabyte of RAM.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...with the WinCE TBSOD (Tiny Blue Screen of Death).
  • Go for it (Score:5, Funny)

    by minginqunt (225413) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:58PM (#14568990) Homepage Journal
    I mean, it worked out so well for Sony. They'd be mad not to go for it.

    1. Release desirable, powerful handheld games console.
    2. Subsidize it up the bottom.
    3. Fail to release any games other than pointless ports of console games I already own.
    4. ???
    5. FAIL TO PROFIT!!!

    By the way, the '???' there was caused by my playing a spot of Mario Kart DS. I really should focus more when bleating at Slashdot.
    • Re:Go for it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by clontzman (325677) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:16PM (#14569235) Homepage
      Fail to release any games other than pointless ports of console games I already own.
      ...

      By the way, the '???' there was caused by my playing a spot of Mario Kart DS


      In other words, the flagship game for the DS is a port of a console game you probably own on four other platforms already? ;-)
      • Heh. I call that irony.

        Still, Mario Kart with wireless internet play rocks my world, boyo.
        • And GTA is the second best thing I can do in the palm of my hand.
        • Bleh ... only if you like button mashey racers. The only way to win online is to do that terrible snaking manuver. Power sliding on straightaways never used to be effective. Go Nintendo for supporting the twitch-jerk gamer and ruining what was once a fun game.

          Also ... WTF is up with no online battle mode? I mean, Nintendo totally dropped the ball there.

          They lost points with me on this one. Major points. Still above all their competetors by a margin, but its getting smaller ...
  • by szembek (948327) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:59PM (#14568994) Homepage
    At the same time the mp3 player market and video game market are completely different. While somebody who buys a portable game system might use built in mp3 player functionality, somebody looking for an mp3 player would not be interested in the overhead of a gaming system.
    • "At the same time the mp3 player market and video game market are completely different. While somebody who buys a portable game system might use built in mp3 player functionality, somebody looking for an mp3 player would not be interested in the overhead of a gaming system."

      Yes. In fact I'm always annoyed that my PC can play games. I wish it would only play mp3's. All that overhead is so annoying. The iPod will never play video either.
      • Wow you must have been surprised when your $1000 20lb mp3 player came with the ability to play games!! The iPod is still primarily a MP3 player, technology has just advanced enough that including a good-enough video player is possible, kinda like cell phones with cameras. Almost nobody looking for a digital camera is going to consider a cellphone camera, although someone looking for a phone may be interested.

        Both the PSP and DS can be used as MP3 players, but the overhead(weight, cost, and fragility) mak
  • by vjmurphy (190266) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:59PM (#14569003) Homepage
    Not only will it be able to play games, music and movies, but like its larger sibling, it will also be a portable heater.
  • by th1ckasabr1ck (752151) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:00PM (#14569016)
    I'm pretty sure it's just going to be a laptop.
  • I never understood why Microsoft entered into the crowded, mature console market to begin with. I always thought it would have made more sense to go after Nintendo with their portable monopoly, back when the sub par GBA was the only game in town. Imagine what Microsoft could have done if they had launched a competing portable around the same time the Xbox came about. They would have crushed the GBA - no backlight, no FPU, only 2 face buttons. Instead they waited, and now they've got to face off against
    • Microsoft has never pioneered, and probably never will. Every market they have success in, they waited until it was apparently profitable, and then bought or shoved out the nearest competitor.
    • by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:27PM (#14569397) Homepage Journal
      I never understood why Microsoft entered into the crowded, mature console market to begin with.

      Living room domination. It has little to do with winning the console market and more to do with getting into living rooms. Mind-share now, markets later.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        What surprises me is that Microsoft decided to make any hardware at all. Why didn't they just offer the Live service on all existing consoles, leveraging their enormous pre-established MSN server network and making money hand over fist, instead of losing a cool $4B with under-utilized, ugly, and notably unpopular hardware?

        Live is the only thing they've done right so far, and its the part they make the most profit on too. Not sure what this whole "hardware" thing it about still.
    • "Why can't Microsoft pioneer something for once, instead of playing catchup?"

      good question... seems to be the entire corporate mantra as of late.

      i guess that MS was trying to do something like that with the x360, but they rushed to market instead of pioneering something extraordinary.
    • Unlike the proclamations of microsoft marketing, they don't really believe they will win in the operating system or office suite wars (but don't think they wont maintaining a suite of marketing deceit and other questionable activities to stave off the end for as long as possible and as a side note destroying the reputation of their executives in the process).

      The games console and media centre is an attempt to start shifting microsoft into other areas. Much the same as DRM licencing as well as the various

  • by binaryDigit (557647) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:04PM (#14569080)
    It would appear that Steve's Reality Distortion field is effective even against the evil empire! [slashdot.org].
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:05PM (#14569087) Homepage Journal
    When their big push was portable music players a large percentage of their own employees used iPods. Even an executive said the iPod was better then what their hardware partners offered. If they can't get their own employees to use their portable products why would anyone else? Let's see if they repeat their last failure.
    • The funny thing is, instead of employees all having iPods this time around they may find most employees stick with the DS over a portable Microsoft gaming console.

      Foiled again!
  • For a company that has more money than most countries, I find them rather dull. Vista is boring, XBox 2 is blah, and this portable strikes me as dull. It just seems like MS has kinda faded in the background while newer more innovative companies have stolen the spotlight. When I hear MS, I just yawn.

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
  • This could work (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the computer guy nex (916959) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:07PM (#14569115)
    What if Microsoft made a handheld gaming machine that only played games from Xbox Live Marketplace? What if they removed in-store purchasing of games alltogether?

    They would use the same business model for the 360 (buy a card at Best Buy, enter the code and download games). They could offer demos of each (same as the 360) and have all of the same competitive high score/leaderboard functions.

    The only way Microsoft would successfully enter the handheld market would be NOT to clone the PSP (which is a POS anyway).
    • See, now that would be cool, but you'd have to (at least initially) bundle the handheld with the 360 console. That way, people would be all about downloading the content. I'd TOTALLY buy a handheld that could play geometry wars or gauntlet and all the mini-games stuff that live is shilling. Seriously, that would be a good idea, and I would buy it. It would be very much in line with their "commitment to making Live an example" in the industry. I say go for it, Gates!
    • Re:This could work (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CheechBG (247105)
      You automatically assume that everyone in America (or the world) who would purchase one of these has a high-speed internet connection. In the real world, that doesn't happen.

      Plus, this would eat into the profit margins of the big retail stores. They will never allow that to happen.
    • What if Microsoft made a handheld gaming machine that only played games from Xbox Live Marketplace? What if they removed in-store purchasing of games alltogether?

      Then all the stores who, you know, sell actual consoles and games, would hate them. No more game sales. No more used game sales. If I were EB/Gamestop, I'd be hard pressed to promote such a system. And without that, you just lost a huge portion of the market.

      They would use the same business model for the 360 (buy a card at Best Buy, e

      • Ah, parrot the party line. I hope they're paying you well over there to troll like this. The PSP is a beautiful piece of hardware, with a solid and growing lineup (see my collection for a list of many of them, still missing about 5), and some great additional functionality (movies, music, web).

        Man, I so wish that were true. I bought a PSP the day it came out, had it preordered in fact. It looked so pretty, I nearly threw my DS away. Boy would that have sucked. Besides Lumines, there hasn't been a single
  • It's not enough that they burned down a customer's house [twoop.com]... now they are going to set a customer on fire directly! I guess this is just part of their secret strategy to scare people away from game consoles and back into PC gaming...
  • Do Less (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:13PM (#14569208) Homepage
    I think that microsoft should try to narrow what it does instead of trying to do everything that it can. By narrowing it's views, the products it produces will be better.
    • They can't help themselves. They want to rule the world.
    • Rome had the same problem. Guess which two groups are going to share the same fate?
    • I think that microsoft should try to narrow what it does instead of trying to do everything that it can. By narrowing it's views, the products it produces will be better.

      No, by all means let them try to do more - eventually (hopefully) MS will overextend itself and then the whole rotten house of cards will collapse.
    • By narrowing it's views, the products it produces will be better.

      Microsoft has never been concerned with making its products better. It has only ever been concerned with making money. That is Bill Gates' ethic. He wants to win, and the way he measures winning is money.

      Market share is critical to winning, so MS seeks that at all costs, including flagrantly violating federal laws. Quality of their products is only a concern when it's necessary to increase profits.

      Microsoft is diametrically at odds with the co
  • by Churla (936633) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:13PM (#14569218)
    Leveraging Xbox live as a networking system to game against others, put in all the PsP goodies like local wireless access.
    Slap a derivative of Windows Mobile on it for the OS so you also have a PDA capable device. And make it look and feel like other OS products people know (windows and media center)
    Give it a touchscreen to nudge in on the PDA market futher.
    Enough storage capacity out of the box to be a small MP3 jukebox of viable portable drive.

    Not to mention the ways to integrate it and tie it in as the device which moves between your media center, xbox, and windows machine.... Lots of possibilities to leverage work they've done in other areas.

  • Microsoft already has too much on it's plate (in order of ideal importance):

    1) Windows XP SP3
    2) Windows Vista
    3) Getting a decent Xbox 360 library developed
    4) Body Vests for staff that are specced to survive a Ballmer rant
    5) Windows Blackcomb this decade.

    If MS enters a new market, it's going to fall apart. MS is having to go all out to get Vista off this late, they'll have to push harder to get Blackcomb out this decade. And neither the Xbox 360 or Vista seem to be offering all that much as an incen
    • "3) Getting a decent Xbox 360 library developed"

      What are they going to do, finish games for 3rd party developers for them?

      The 360 already has a solid release lineup (PGR3, COD2, PDZ, Kameo all receiving 85+% composite scores at rating sites - almost unheard of for launch titles) with some major titles about to hit the market (Saint's Row, Elder Scrolls, Fight Night R3).
      • What are they going to do, finish games for 3rd party developers for them?

        Starting on another console and doubling how much work they have to do to secure games developer committments is going to hurt them heavily. I know they don't make the games, but they have to go out there and sell the 360 vs. the PS3. And if the 360 is tied to HD-DVD, which will fail, that could be hard.
    • According to Wikipedia, Blackcomb is scheduled for a 2011 release, although that will definitely be pushed back.
      • Blackcomb is the real next-gen OS. It's supposed to be largely rebuilt. If it was coming out now, it'd be very seriously dominant. But by 2011, it'll be where Vista is now: trying to sprint to get within sight of it's competitors.
  • If they could merge a PDA, with an improved media player, and a game system, I would be quite happy. Then again, my pocket PC already plays all of my music, has games available, and runs third party programs. So what's so special about those other hand helds?

    -Rick
  • Rumors and speculation about a MS handheld were floating around at last years E3. I believe they may go for a 'media' device that will offer a sizeable internal HD and the ability to play games, music, video, productivity tools (email, 'office' type services etc.), internet browsing...

    An 'all in one' device
  • Possible designs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eightyford (893696) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:18PM (#14569267) Homepage
    Here are a few possible designs:

    xbox [yafro.com]
    xbox [pipex.com]
    joke [estarland.com]
    xbox [aeropause.com]

    And, a portable gamecube:
    gamecube [btconnect.com]
  • I believe that Microsoft will launch a mobile device that will serve as a mobile phone and a media device. They have the mobile OS, the media software. All they will need is a killer design and an Itunes like website.
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:19PM (#14569285) Homepage Journal
    I can't see them pissing off a whole bunch of media player mfgs who already have product on the market by going head to head with them. I can see them doing a reference design like they did with a cell phone.
    • I can't see them pissing off a whole bunch of media player mfgs who already have product on the market by going head to head with them.

      Microsoft will betray anybody.

      Remember Sega?

      Sega "teamed" with Microsoft to bring a Windows CE based console to market to replace Sega's inhouse development platform.

      Now we have the Xbox and no Sega.

      Remember SGI?

      SGI "teamed" with Microsoft to bring a new display technology (Ferenheit) to replace SGI's OpenGL.

      Now we have DirectX and no SGI.

      Remember Digital?

      Digital "temed" wit
  • by RyoShin (610051) <.tukaro. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:21PM (#14569307) Homepage Journal
    November 2nd, 2006
    Microsoft Unveils New Portable Gaming Station
    via Reuters

    In the wake of the success of both Sony's PS3 and Nintendo's Revolution and dwindling XBox 360 numbers, Microsoft has stepped up to the plate to challenge both companies in another gaming market: handhelds.

    In an MTV2 event held yesterday, Micrsoft revealed their "XBox Z", the tentatively named portable gaming station. "We aim to do it all," a spokesman commented. "The XBox Z, known internally as the ZBox, will be a one-size-fits all handheld device, capable of playing anything, from video to music to games."

    The unit, which is a bit smaller than a regular computer keyboard, weighs in at about two pounds. Controls are made up of four analog control sticks and six buttons, as well as three buttons on each shoulder. When asked about how gamers are supposed to use four analog sticks with only two thumbs, the spokesman replied "They'll think of something."

    A 5" LCD screen sits in the middle and slightly up, amidst the controls. The unit takes regular sized CDs and will also support the new HD-DVD format, playing anything from XBox games to CDs to DVDs. Mentioned briefly was an attachment to play turntable-style records, to pull in the music enthusiast crowd.

    Initial accessories were also announced at the unveiling. A small packpack, used to hold the system and its three required power sources, will be offered in various colors, as well as a clear mesh form. A utility-like belt will be used to hold various media to play in the device.

    When asked about battery life and size, the Microsoft spokesman replied "I'll admit, right now it's a bit of a drainer, with a large size. We're working on the battery life, and expect to have it last two hours on 16 AA batteries. As for the large size, we're looking into shrinking it, but complete hard drives are hard to replace. Besides, gamers will be able to show their handheld with pride, belittling the other so called 'gaming handhelds'."

    No release date was announced, though Microsoft plans to use "Bringing gaming to a new dimension" as their slogan.

    More information is expected by the end of the month, as long as the Korean-Canadian war does not interfere with ongoing plans.
  • .. its gonna be a rough ride.

    seriously though, i'll never write software for Microsoft, ever. i have all the hardware i need, and it all runs linux.

    no thanks, Microsoft!

    (GP2X rocks, yo!)
  • If they made it so that you could somehow rip your Xbox games onto it, that would be a killer device. Halo on a handheld with wifi. Killer app right there.
  • An easy solution to get it viewed as a game player and a iPod killer would be to have different bundles (which sounds like XBox 360). Different bundles would be sold in different parts of the store, one looking like an mp3/video player, other looking like a video game player. Let's hope they don't slaughter the idea though like they did with XBox 360 (which I think is taking advantage of the fact that $400 is too much, and selling a $300 version with much more then $100 worth of retail stuff stripped out)
  • Risky at best (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BillLeeLee (629420) <bashpenguin.gmail@com> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:31PM (#14569461)
    This same question came up in a forum I frequent, and just like I said there, I'd wonder if Microsoft really wants to fight a two front war in the console and handheld markets. I think they should focus on achieving profits with the XBox 360 before they create another potential money sink.

    Of course, they could just say "Look how much of a success Sony has had in just over a year of entering the market!" Well, depending on whose numbers you trust, Sony's PSP could be a good example of a true challenger to the king of the handheld world. By some accounts Sony owns roughly 25% of the market. I think that 25% is only compared to the market it shares with the Nintendo DS, because I don't think the PSP owns 25% of the global handheld market when you consider all the people who still have the older Gameboy Advances, SPs, etc., which numbers in the tens of millions.

    Also, there is still the Japanese market. As the last two Microsoft console launches there have shown, reception by the Japanese was lackluster at best. I think for a true challenger to Sony and Nintendo, a Microsoft handheld would really have to succeed in Japan. Sure, many people will say "But Europe and the Americas are Microsoft's main market," but I think this is a limited view. Microsoft does see Japan as a market it must penetrate successfully, which is why they began courting more Japanese companies to create games that cater more to the Japanese people.

    Also, Japan is a significant market for games. Over there, the Nintendo DS sold 4 million units in 2005, twice that of the PSP for the same year. If you look at the sales charts for the past several months, every week was basically 6 - 7 DS games in the top 10 sales chart. On the other hand, it was incredibly rare to see a PSP game crack the top 10 of the chart.

    And that is also something that Microsoft should learn from. The PSP sells well in the States and Europe probably because it is seen as cooler, more stylish, and it has more capabilities than the admittedly plain-jane DS. However, in my very humble opinion, its game selection is more limited than the DS's. Microsoft could really make an impact if they deliver with a steady stream of good, quality games and not rely on whatever other features their handheld would have (i.e. Sony's UMDs being more popular than the actual games).

    Microsoft should also learn that having the most powerful parts does not make a system inherently better than another. At its core, the PSP is more powerful than the DS (dual MIPS 300 MHz processors (locked at 200 Mhz max), more powerful graphics engine), but the DS, at least in Japan, has sold more. Why? Even with a relatively weaker system, the games being developed for it are fun and appealing to more than just the 18-35 demographic. That's why games like the Brain Training games have been so successful and continue to stay on the charts.

    Microsoft can make this work, but they might have to shift some of their views.
  • If they were smart, they would hold off a lot longer to learn more about the market. Sony supposedly did their homework before launching the PSP and look where that's gotten them. Sony at least had the benefit of being the #1 console system at the time of the PSP launch so it was the logical next step.

    They should spend more time trying to sell XBox360's and the up-and coming XBox720 before they consider starting work on the XBrick.
  • About time (Score:2, Insightful)

    I mean, both Nintendo and Sony have a handheld game platform, why not Microsoft?

    Microsoft both has a Mobile version of Windows AND partnerships with mobile platform makers. To make a mobile Xbox platform simply means taking some existing PocketPC device and making it more gaming centric. They even ported DirectX to the mobile platform so there is at least a 3d graphics library to leverage.

    Whether or not it will compete well against the dominant Nintendo remains to be seen. The PSP has been struggling to ga
  • Portable devices that do many things don't ever do very well in the marketplace. Look at the PDA or the market for the "universal remote control."

    The jury is still out on whether or not a video iPod will be successful. That's about as close to multifunction as people will put up with. Please don't provide Apple's video downloads as proof of "success". Most people will try something a few times and it's tough to argue we've passed through the try-out stage yet.

    I would love to hear from people in other pa
  • by HunterZ (20035)
    I'd be highly skeptical of any Microsoft handheld... It's just going to be too DRM-laden to be interesting.
  • It seems to me that if they could fit an iPod-sized hard drive into a portable game system, they could actually make some good innovations in gameplay as well. And if was interoperable with Xbox Live, so you could download games straight to the HD through an Xbox 360 or PC connector, it would be even cooler. Imagine a huge library of small, indy games available on the cheap for download to a portable system... not too shabby! And if you could download even your purchased games to the HD, it would save you f
  • ...of Xbox Live players being released into the wild.

    Oh, the humanity!
  • I'd prefer one of these [gbax.com].
  • Rather than leave it to third party hardware companies to do it for them?

    If this comes to fruition, how much are they willing to lose per unit, like the XBox and the XBox 360?
  • The problem: This theoretical handheld needs to appeal to both the gamer market and those looking for a portable media player, a crossover that none have yet to master. So far, every attempt has been seen as belonging decidedly to one market or the other (such as the PSP), or has simply failed altogether. Should also capitalize on Microsoft's X-Box name for brand awareness, but shouldn't be tied to it to prevent pigeonholing.

    The solution: Hello, x-Pod!

    • i think the psp has done a good job. almost anyone who knows about the psp considers it a gaming machine. however the general public has been picking up UMD titles left and right, so the mainstream has at least accepted the fact that it is also a movie player to some extent.
  • Just like Apple's little video player, except Microsoft's has a Blue Screen
  • ... in the handheld market, I think they should do what they do best : buy the competition. ;)

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