Microsoft's decision to dive into the game console market with the original Xbox shocked the industry. Why would a company that made its billions by selling software on an open platform decide to make a proprietary box? The original Xbox was put together in record time, leveraging existing PC technology (an Intel Celeron 733 CPU, an NVIDIA graphics card, and a hard drive) to create a new gaming platform, one that leveraged the Windows XP kernel and DirectX technology. Was Microsoft's goal simply to battle Sony and Nintendo for the gaming console market?
If so, it was an uphill battle. Microsoft spent billions of dollars building and marketing the Xbox, and although the console has sold over 24 million units, it still struggled to equal the GameCube (also over 24 million) and could come nowhere near the PlayStation 2 (over 100 million). The new Entertainment division at Microsoft lost money in every quarter except for one: the quarter when the massively popular Halo 2 was introduced.
Still, Microsoft is legendary for their ability to stick at things. Most people laughed (and rightly so) in 1985 when Windows 1.0 was introduced, but the program went on to become the best selling operating system of all time. Fortunately for Microsoft, the original Xbox was not nearly as dysfunctional as Windows 1.0-it was a solid (if somewhat bulky) performer, and features such as Xbox Live put it technically ahead of the competition.
Now with the massively redesigned and more powerful Xbox 360 released, many people are wondering what the future has in store for Microsoft's gaming efforts. Arstechnica.com recently had the opportunity to chat with Matt Lee, a software developer who works at Microsoft in the Xbox division. He had some fascinating things to say about the console, the games market in general, and the future of the Xbox 360.