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Games Hardware

Why Microsoft Got Into the Console Business 257

Posted by samzenpus
from the origin-story dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Joachim Kempin, former vice president of Windows Sales, has explained how the original Xbox came to be. It turns out it was Sony's fault, simply because the Japanese company wasn't very friendly towards Microsoft, and Microsoft eventually decided they had to 'stop Sony.' Apparently, long before the Xbox was even an idea, Microsoft was trying to collaborate with Sony in a number of areas they thought there was overlap. That collaboration was sought before even Sony had a games console coming to market, and would have focused on products for the entertainment sector."
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Why Microsoft Got Into the Console Business

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:03PM (#42816389)

    About Bill Gates throwing a fit in front of Sony because they refused to put his garbage software on their hardware. Also not that while Xbox is profitable for Microsoft, it is not considered profitable enough.

    • by Cryacin (657549) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:15PM (#42816461)
      Reasons to get into business #32:

      Spite.
      • Linux/Windows/OS X (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:18PM (#42816485)
        As a long time user of linux, I have to say that I also enjoy Windows for the moments when it is appropriate. Same for OS X. There 3 amazing accomplishments of the human mind. And should be celebrated as such.
      • by MrEricSir (398214) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:21PM (#42816497) Homepage

        Reasons to get into business #32:

        Spite.

        Unfortunately, that's also the reasonining behind a number of open source projects.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Runaway1956 (1322357)

          Call it spite, if you like.

          If millions of users need an app, or a functionality, that is only available at prices up to ten thousand dollars per seat - you can expect an open source alternative to spring up, sooner or later.

          Yeah, call it spite. Or, you could say, "It's the economy, stupid!"

          If it can be demonstrated that people can teach an animal to roll over and play dead, should everyone in the world who wishes to do so have to pay ten, fifty, or maybe a thousand dollars to the guy who figured out how to

          • The GP wrote:

            "Unfortunately, that's also the reasonining behind a number of open source projects."

            You replied:

            "Call it spite, if you like.

            If millions of users need an app, or a functionality, that is only available at prices up to ten thousand dollars per seat - you can expect an open source alternative to spring up, sooner or later."

            Your comment is valid if we take the GP's post to refer to opensource as against expensive proprietary software. My own reading is that the GP was referring to two competing op

    • by citizenr (871508)

      About Bill Gates throwing a fit in front of Sony because they refused to put his garbage software on their hardware. Also not that while Xbox is profitable for Microsoft, it is not considered profitable enough.

      It might be making profits now (as in bringing more than current expenses), but it still has a LONG (5? 6? billion dollars) to go.

    • Microsoft's garbage software uses way less RAM than Sony's OS on the PS3. One of the chief complaints I hear from PS3 developers is how much more overhead there is from the PS3 OS compared to the 360.

  • No news here (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:14PM (#42816449)

    It was pretty well agreed eight years ago that the living room was a possible avenue for a "Trojan Horse" that would take over as the household computing center and push aside the consumer PC. And Bill Gates was always paranoid about competition, not just established players in personal computing like Apple but also new entrants large and small. That's why MS got into so much trouble with the anti-trust regulators in the '90s. Sony didn't want to make some sweetheart development deal with MS... so what? Sony was big and powerful, and some of the last companies that made the mistake of trying to buddy up to Microsoft were IBM (with the original PC) and Sybase (with SQL Server development for Windows). Jerry Kaplan wrote about his own close encounter with Bill Gates in his book "Startup" (Kaplan demo'd the Go tablet computer for Gates and Jeff Raikes, hoping to interest them in application development; instead, Gates turned around and launched the Pen Windows project. Guess who was put in charge? Yup. Jeff Raikes).

    As usual, Steve Jobs got it right... the game console wasn't going to be the centerpiece for consumer technology. It looks so obvious in retrospect.

  • Oh the irony. (Score:5, Informative)

    by dadelbunts (1727498) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:17PM (#42816481)
    Thats hilarious, because the playstation originally came about from sony and nintendo trying to partner up, and nintendo breaking the deal because of arguments about money. Sony was so mad they created the playstation to rival nintendo.
    • Re:Oh the irony. (Score:5, Informative)

      by sesshomaru (173381) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @12:13AM (#42817153) Journal

      Actually, that's inaccurate:

      "Using the same Super Disc technology as the proposed SNES drive, Sony began development on what was to eventually become the PlayStaion. Initially called the Super Disc, it was supposed to be able to play both SNES cartridges and CD-ROMs, of which Sony was to be the 'sole worldwide licenser,' as stated in the contract. Nintendo was now to be at the mercy of Sony, who could manufacture their own CDs, play SNES carts, and play Sony CDs. Needless to say, Nintendo began to get worried."
      ---- History of the PlayStation [ign.com]

  • by Jeremi (14640) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:19PM (#42816487) Homepage

    I think Sony made the right decision there. If Microsoft approached me about "co-operating" I wouldn't touch them with a 10 foot pole. Look how well it worked out for IBM (with MS-DOS and OS/2) or Sun (with Java).

    • by rwyoder (759998) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:35PM (#42816609)

      I think Sony made the right decision there. If Microsoft approached me about "co-operating" I wouldn't touch them with a 10 foot pole. Look how well it worked out for IBM (with MS-DOS and OS/2) or Sun (with Java).

      Add Robert Metcalfe and 3Com. Here is a video clip from the documentary "Nerds 2.0.1" where he is talking about how M$ f***ed them over: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaCFHuVZAU0&t=4m [youtube.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hairyfish (1653411)
      I'm going to hazard a guess here and say that IBM and Sun are both doing better than you are. Perhaps there is a reason for that?
    • by DeathFromSomewhere (940915) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @11:37PM (#42816963)
      You guys making this argument really need to start picking better examples.

      IBM (with MS-DOS

      They defined the PC as we know it including a lot of standards that persist to this day. It was immensely successful and allowed for IBM to dominate the personal computing space for years.

      and OS/2)

      Was doomed from the start. IBM is equally to blame for its demise, despite the haterade that people on slashdot are drinking.

      Sun (with Java)

      I seem to remember that involving more lawsuits than any sort of cooperation. In any case Java is currently a very popular language in the enterprise.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        You guys making this argument really need to start picking better examples.

        I have one that is both topical and accurate. Sega worked with Microsoft, I have no idea what they got out of it but I presume it included the promise of some games and probably access to partners to build the Dreamcast. In return Microsoft laughed as Sony murdered the DC with fraudulent specs and built their own console, then sunk massive amounts of money into it in order to remain relevant.

      • by DrXym (126579)
        OS/2 wasn't doomed from the start but IBM certainly held the stake over its heart making it easy for MS to hammer it in.
    • by DrXym (126579)

      I think Sony made the right decision there. If Microsoft approached me about "co-operating" I wouldn't touch them with a 10 foot pole. Look how well it worked out for IBM (with MS-DOS and OS/2) or Sun (with Java).

      You only have to see how Toshiba's "cooperation" with Microsoft worked out for them with HD DVD to see what a bad idea it could be. Nokia could be the next victim of that "cooperation".

    • Don't forget the Farenheit 3D API effort with SGI (SGI made it their focus, while Microsoft quietly worked on DirectX instead)

  • Embrace... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elashish14 (1302231) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {4clacforp}> on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:21PM (#42816499)

    Given MS's strategy of Embrace, Extend, Extinguish, it's obvious Sony made the right choice.

    In all honesty, why would any hardware vendor want to tie themselves to a platform over which they have no control? Look at how MS throws around their desktop hardware partners, dictating to them which minimum and maximum hardware requirements the system can have. No doubt they would try to pull the same shenanigans with Sony. And then look at how MS blames its hardware partners for crappy Win8 sales when it's really fault for designing the OS in ways that no consumer ever wanted? And then there's the atrocity that's Windows RT, and how nothing runs on it!! I'm guessing that there isn't a single hardware vendor on the planet that wouldn't love to never have to deal with MS again, were it not for their desktop monopoly... probably even MS itself!

    It's not unreasonable that Sony executives made the simple observation: companies that entangle with MS never do well. Seriously - for each and every company that MS has partnered with that's doing decently, you can name 5 that are in the gutter or dead altogether.

    At least MS did a better job with the Xbox than they did with WinMo. That's not saying much, but hey, when you're Microsoft, that's really all you've got...

    • or each and every company that MS has partnered with that's doing decently

      I can't think of any, to be honest. Unless you count the ones MS bought outright, but even there, MS managed to turdify the acquired product.

  • by supersat (639745) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:21PM (#42816501)
    ... because Nintendo screwed them. Nintendo and Sony were jointly developing the CD add-on to the SNES (with Sony also building a combined SNES/CD machine named the Play Station). However, Nintendo dropped a bombshell on Sony at the '91 CES: they were severing their ties with Sony and instead partnering with Phillips to develop their CD technology.
    • However, Nintendo dropped a bombshell on Sony at the '91 CES: they were severing their ties with Sony and instead partnering with Phillips

      Are you sure it wasn't a lamp oil-shell or rope-shell? This [youtube.com] is what became of the partnership with Philips.

  • Xbox Subscription (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lucm (889690) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:23PM (#42816529)

    Xbox sucks. One must own a Gold membership (about $5/month) to install many key applications, such as Netflix (for which a paid Netflix subscription is required, of course). And whenever an update is available, refusing to install it immediately will close the Live session, preventing any access to Netflix. This is hugely annoying as those pesky updates frequently happen at the least convenient time.

    They really do milk the customers. I bought a 1-year Gold membership but I probably won't renew. Unfortunately the alternative (Playstation) is not that great.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:37PM (#42816633)

      Wii? 150 bucks new. Does not do HD, but I personally don't care. Also gets hulu and amazon and has a decent youtube app. Also you can softmod it for homebrew and get wiimc and vlc shares. Also stream movies, music, pictures over wifi from your pc. And you can play some great video games. Hook up a hard drive and you don't even need to leave your couch to put in the dvd. AND no online fees. Plus it's approachable to play videogames with your girlfriend or her parents, even if they are terrible at them. Has a terrible web browser though, but that's what your ipad/phone is for. Seriously, if you don't give a crap about HD, Wii is hands down the most amazing piece of TV machinery ever.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by exomondo (1725132)

      One must own a Gold membership (about $5/month)

      Holy crap! 5 whole dollars per month?!

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Agreed - it isn't much of a sacrifice. On that note, please post your banking info so that I can initiate a $5/month transfer into my account. You'll never miss it.

    • by CMontgomery (1238316) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @12:07AM (#42817129)
      Microsoft pioneered online gaming for consoles. Before Xbox Live the Playstation network sucked. You had to hold down the square button, a face button, to talk in SOCOM 2-one of the extraordinarily few games to feature voice- and even then only one person could talk at a time. Playstation Online had no friends list, and required you to buy an extra harddrive (and hope you had the right ps2 to install it into).

      Then along came Microsoft with Xbox Live. Voice chat in every game, cross games friend list, voice messages, game invites, it was crazy. For years Xbox had, basically, the only choice for online gaming. Ps2 online was crap compared to Xbox.

      And you know the thing about all that is? It costs money. $50/year. If you can't pay that you probably should spend more time working and less time buying Xboxes.

      As to Netflix, of course the system kicks you off for having different software than the servers. You can't wait a minute for a 20 mb download every few months?

      If you own a console, Xbox Live is the best option. Speed, reliability, and even the updates are shorter than any other console. Playstation is getting pretty good (But Oh No! Playstation Plus isn't free either!), but they are always playing catchup.
      • by lucm (889690)

        And you know the thing about all that is? It costs money. $50/year. If you can't pay that you probably should spend more time working and less time buying Xboxes.

        This is not how value is calculated. I have no need whatsoever for "xbox friends" or in-game chat. I use my Xbox to play single-player games and watch movies on Netflix. Yet, I have to subsidize YOUR usage of the Xbox network with this $50 membership. Even $1 would still be more than what it's worth to me, especially since I can get Netflix running on a PS3 or a WII or a computer without paying that useless fee.

        As to Netflix, of course the system kicks you off for having different software than the servers. You can't wait a minute for a 20 mb download every few months?

        I was talking about Xbox updates, which have nothing to do with Netflix and should not prevent me

    • by hosecoat (877680)

      Xbox sucks. One must own a Gold membership (about $5/month) to install many key applications, such as Netflix (for which a paid Netflix subscription is required, of course). And whenever an update is available, refusing to install it immediately will close the Live session, preventing any access to Netflix. This is hugely annoying as those pesky updates frequently happen at the least convenient time.

      They really do milk the customers. I bought a 1-year Gold membership but I probably won't renew. Unfortunately the alternative (Playstation) is not that great.

      I agree. I have had a 360 since the begining, but haven't used it since switching to PS3 years ago. I hated having to pay for online multiplayer. The final straw were the multiple red ring of deaths and system replacements. Why am I going to keep buying games (investing) for a system I know won't last. In contrast my C64 and NES still work.

      I love the media player for PS3, but dislike the controller for gaming. I also felt (at the time) that xbox had better game selection. I'm not much of a gamer anymore,

  • Dreamcast (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FadedTimes (581715) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:27PM (#42816551)

    I always thought it was because Sega failed with the Dreamcast. Sega had worked with Microsoft for 2 years for the OS on the Dreamcast. So I assumed Microsoft decided to go on their own with out Sega.

    • Re:Dreamcast (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:38PM (#42816651)

      Having owned both a Dreamcast and a first-generation XBox, I was surprised at the similarities. The controller for XBox looked like it was very much patterned off the Sega Dreamcast and some of the earlier games had a very similar look and feel. I had thought that Microsoft basically brought out the XBox as a Dreamcast II, but under their name instead of Sega's.

      • Re:Dreamcast (Score:4, Interesting)

        by kamapuaa (555446) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @11:03PM (#42816783) Homepage

        And word on the streets on the time was that XBox would be DC compatible, as the DC hardware had been reduced to a single chip.

      • by Saffaya (702234)

        Some games who were made for the DreamCast towards the end of its life were ported to be early titles on the XBOX.
        Such as, for example, Gunvalkyrie. It's a pity because we have reports the game was made with online play options on the DreamCast (all models had a modem integrated, ethernet card add-on available), and didn't get it on the XBOX (on-line capabilities weren't available then : Halo CE doesn't have XBLA play).

    • Re:Dreamcast (Score:5, Informative)

      by _Ludwig (86077) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @12:09AM (#42817141) Journal

      They worked with Sega on an operating system for the Dreamcast, based on Windows CE. According to this list [dcemu.co.uk], only 48 of the 688 commercially-released DC games used it.

  • I know there are a lot that will disagree, but I honestly feel that MS has at least "mostly" learned their lesson. Sony? leaks customer data like there's no tomorrow. DMCA? Bastards fought tooth and nail for it, then have wantonly violated it with rootkits to "protect" their music CDs. Where's the public outcry on that? Where's anonymous? I could go on, but, I think these very few points suffice. Feel free to add on or disagree.
    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      The rootkit thing happened like 8 years ago on a few select CDs. It was before there was an Anonymous, and Slashdot still whines about it every time Sony comes up, even peripherally. So it's not like they slipped it in under the radar.

      • by Xtifr (1323) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @12:35AM (#42817245) Homepage

        Furthermore, it was limited to BMG, and BMG was bought by Sony at just about the same time the kit came out. Sony ended up with the blame for something that clearly had to be planned, designed, and implented before they even came into the picture. It should be referred to as the BMG rootkit, not the Sony rootkit, but who the heck remembers BMG these days?

        Not that I want to defend Sony. They've made more than their share of horrible misteps over the last few years, and any lingering respect I might have had for them is long gone. But yeah, I think the rootkit thing gets seriously overblown around here. Heck, Microsoft has completely pwned the entire OS on many people's systems. :)

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          It should be referred to as the BMG rootkit, not the Sony rootkit, but who the heck remembers BMG these days?

          You know how to work the bread, cheese, and dough
          from scratch but see the catch is you can get caught
          Know what you're selling and what you bought so cut that big talk

  • by joeflies (529536) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @11:28PM (#42816913)
    "Cooperate with us or we will crush you". Geez I wonder why Sony would ever give such a cold shoulder to such a friendly gesture?
    • by countach (534280)

      That's what MS did back then. Everyone lived in fear of them. Now nobody could care less. You're going to crush us? Yeah, whatever.

  • All Microsoft wanted to do was Embrace Sony.... and after that Extend them into new areas....

    There's a third E in that but I don't remember what it stands for...

    • There's a third E in that but I don't remember what it stands for...

      I believe the word, as used by Microsoft France, is "enculer".

  • Old news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SilenceBE (1439827) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @01:28AM (#42817471)
    As described in the book "opening the xbox", it worked on Bill Gates nerves that sony was to powerfull in the living room and it could use its weight to influence what became new standards in the living room. Look at the DVD for example how the ps2 accelerated the adoption of this format. Microsoft dream is about Microsoft everywhere

    The same thing happend with blu ray that totally destroyed microsoft hd dvd push. The xbox never has been about gaming and I'm even sure that for the next xbox the focus will be also bigger on non gaming capabilities.

    The irony of the whole thing is that the xbox seriously weakend their windows platform as it weakened the argument "I need windows because I want to game"
    • The irony of the whole thing is that the xbox seriously weakend their windows platform as it weakened the argument "I need windows because I want to game"

      This is pretty inaccurate. Their approach with the XBox and DirectX has allowed for much less painful porting, giving the game producers a 2-for-1 hit. If you recall the time before the XBox, there were a lot of PC games and a lot of console games, but most console games were exclusive to the medium. Today is a completely different story with significantly fewer console exclusives and more similar hardware inside consoles and PCs. Gaming drives a lot of Windows sales, and at any point where Windows lost

  • It would make sense not to put MS' crap in your hardware so if that's the case Sony was wise. But I think the reason for the Xbox is because all of MS' set top box and PC in the living room ideas went tits up. So rather than appealing to adults they decided to pander to children. I'm not sure would have made much of a difference in their attempt to grab control of living rooms.
  • by tekrat (242117) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @11:28AM (#42820309) Homepage Journal

    The very first Electronic Entertainment Expo, held in LA (at the Staples Center if I recall correctly), had the Sony and Microsoft booths next to one another. (MS, if I recall was squeezed between Sony and Sega) Sony's was HUGE, as they were at the time, pushing the Playstation (which wasn't even out in the USA yet, but had been released in Japan). Sega had already released the Sega Saturn and was pushing some 3-D dragon game (forgot the name).

    MS's booth, was not so big, they were showing flight simulator and a few other entertainment packages for the PC. MS, used to being the biggest player at any PC/computer show, was not used to being dwarfed by the behemoths of Sony, Sega, and Nintendo.

    When Sony ran an entire Marching Band through MS's booth (and around the entire show), I think MS had had enough and decided then and there to get into the Console Biz.

  • with the steam box from valve there will probably be no used sale market since there is none on steam on windows/mac/linux at present. microsoft eliminating used sales for their console would give a big boost to the steam box by removing a big differentiator, esp. if potential purchasers of the steam box are used to steam sales and think the steambox will have similar.

    of course, if microsoft and perhaps sony go down the no resale route, and valve went in the other direction and actually came up with a syst

  • That Microsoft didn't like how another company was doing business...

  • Is it so weird that a corporation with excess capital will enter an entertainment market tangentially related to their core technology market?

    More curious than Microsoft's entrance into video games is perhaps Nintendo's. Apparently Nintendo just got tired of printing hanafuda decks and expanded into electronics and eventually entertainment electronics.

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