The Xbox 360, the PS3 and . . . Apple?

by James R. Stoup Oct 03, 2005

The Xbox 360 is coming. So is, for that matter, the PS3. And lets not forget the Nintendo Revolution. In fact, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are all thinking that their box is going to be the next big game console, dominating the market and winning the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers everywhere. But gaming isn’t the only thing they have on their mind. Oh no, they are also looking at this next generation of game consoles as possible home entertainment devices. Microsoft has long dreamed that its Media Center PC would sweep away the old way of watching media but thankfully that dream has met with very little success. It would seem consumers as a whole were not quite as stupid as Bill had hoped, but I digress.

And so, from the failure of Windows Media Center, Sony and Microsoft (Nintendo, for the most part, has resisted making their machines anything other than gaming devices) have learned valuable lessons. Namely that a buggy OS on terribly expensive hardware isn’t the winning combination that it was originally thought to be. And so if you want consumers to throw out all of their old hardware and buy your stuff then you are going to have to make a truly superior user experience. Faced with this Microsoft and Sony decided to go with Plan B.

Plan B was to slowly remake their game console into an entertainment device. And it is a rather devious plan that is already succeeding in minimal ways. They are hoping that as time goes on customers will slowly begin use their device for more than its original purpose. Meaning that you will play Halo 3 on your new Xbox 360 but when it is time to watch a movie you won’t throw your new DVD of Spiderman 5 into a standard DVD player but will instead put it into your Xbox. And, as time goes on and more and more features are added you will steadily come to rely on their product more and more and on your old setup less and less.

Unfortunately this plan won’t work either, though it will take several years before this is realized. Allow me to explain what will happen. Sony and Microsoft will continue to add features to their game systems. And a small group of gamers will actually use all of the features that these machines are capable of. They will watch movies on them, load music on them, surf the web on them and do their best to make the most out of their investment. But most of consumers will stick with what they know. Not because it is better, or cheaper or faster or anything like that. No, they will stay with what they know because the solutions presented by Microsoft and Sony will not be easy enough to use for anyone who isn’t a gamer.

Don’t believe me? Imagine giving your 60 year old father an Xbox and telling him to watch a movie on it, what would happen? He would probably get confused by the controllers (remember, his TV and DVD player don’t have joysticks) and wonder what how he was suppose to use them to watch a movie. So, plodding on, he might turn on the Xbox only to be greeted with its default splash screen and menu (which isn’t the easiest thing to use). So he then puts a DVD into the machine but still can’t work it because the remote control isn’t responding due to the fact that the remote dongle isn’t plugged in. Eventually there is a good chance that he will give up in disgust, curse MS and walk over to his Phillips DVD player and just watch the disk on that.

The next day you will come over and try to explain to him how easy it is to use and how wonderful a product it is and that if he would just learn to use it properly then everything would be just wonderful. I mean, you can use it so how hard could it be, right? Wrong. Dear old dad will never again use an Xbox. If that means he won’t get the most out of his TV shows and movies then so be it.

You see, there is a problem that the tech community as a whole suffers from. We think that everyone is like us when it comes to technology. If we can figure it out then we reason that everyone else should as well. Linux freaks are the worst of this crowd. They exemplify that head in the clouds approach to technology. For proof of this ask any Linux power user if they think that Linux is ready for the desktop. If they say yes then they are light years out of touch with reality. The same applies to gamers. They might be getting the most out of their game systems but the rest of the world is going to stick with what they know because your average consumer doesn’t have the necessary tech skills needed to fully use Microsoft or Sony’s product.

Now, why don’t we look at Apple? What if Apple is looking at this problem from the other direction. At first I wondered if Apple might try and create a game system to compete with MS and Sony. And like them incrementally change it till it became a media center appliance. But what if that notion is all wrong. What if Apple is trying to make a media center appliance first and then give it features that could make it a useful game machine.

For Apple, it would seem to make more sense to turn the Mac Mini into a competitor of the Xbox 360 and PS3 than to try and make something new entirely. If Apple works the problem this way then everything centers around making the new Mac Mini as user friendly as possible while still making it powerful enough to draw users away from traditional setups. One way to do that would be to set up a movie service much like their music service. Then, as time goes on, Apple could add a game division (much like MS) that would create games for its new platform. In this scenario Apple tries first to capture the attention of the larger entertainment market and then slowly focus in on the game market in particular. Could it work? Only time will tell. But I have a feeling that even though Apple’s share of the computer market is rising they aren’t going to be getting out of the consumer electronics market anytime soon. The iPod proved that they could be successful in emerging markets and I have yet to see anything that would indicate Steve is ready to quit.


  • Yes, Pippin NOW!

    No, in fact I doubt the game approach. Did MS make a single $ out of X-BOX? Maybe the will make some money with the 360, but even if - it took an obscene amount of money to get there.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Oct 03, 2005 Posts: 371
  • 60 year old dads can surprise you.  Actually, at that age a lot of us are grandfathers.  At 61 I’ve used PCs since the days of DOS and moved to a 15” PB for overseas business travel to avoid having malware screw my computer while half way around the world. 

    Since then I have replaced the PB with one twice as fast, added a 23” display at work, ordered the 20” G5 iMac the morning it was announced (at 6AM, not less) and got my wife an iBook.  I had a Gen 1 5GB iPod (now use a 40GB) and have bought iPods for every one in the family (my 4 year old granddaughter has the 5GB I started with).  We have iSight cameras (nice when traveling), scanners for old family pics, and a set of Creatures for the office.

    The neat thing about becoming a grandfather is that you can play with new toys like digital cameras and digital movies.  For a lot of us the idea of games leaves us cold - we played games on Ataris with 64K of RAM and went onto more interesting things.

    I’ll keep watching to see where Apple is going, but feel games are down the list right now.

    MacKen had this to say on Oct 03, 2005 Posts: 88
  • I think it’s just another approach at trying to find the right combination of function to entice the consumer. So the MS media center hasn’t had much success, Ok. True enough but, why should folks that cannot do it on their computer be able to do it on their computer connected to a television? Kind of funny if you think about it.

    Now wrap it in an Xbox and the kids will show the parents how to do it. Kids get what they want, mom and dad get what they want and MS/Sony get what they want. With the hope that somewhere in all of that it will catch on with the wider part of the market.  win/win/win? Maybe, we will see.

    Wundryn had this to say on Oct 03, 2005 Posts: 10
  • Nintendo is the “Apple” of the video game industry. If Apple were to enter this market, teaming up would be a wise move.

    As for ease of use, there’s nothing easier than a remote:

    macguyx had this to say on Oct 03, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Remember a few months ago when for some reason on Sony’s website it was mentioned that it runs OS X?  Hmm…  rather than re-invent the wheel, wouldn’t it be better to do a Sony PS3 / Apple OSX box?  Leverage all of the PS game industry and mindshare, not to mention distribution and marketing efforts.  But the OS, as well as running your HDTV, DVD playback, TiVO type stuff, Music library, Photos, etc…. is all run by Apple.  Bluetooth, Airport, DVI out… all in the shape of a Mac Mini.

    BergenDog had this to say on Oct 03, 2005 Posts: 18
  • The 3 processors in the 360 are ibm PPC chips, they may not be G5s but I wonder if we won’t see some mods come out of that as well.

    Wundryn had this to say on Oct 03, 2005 Posts: 10
  • In responce to Wundryn, the xbox has a tri CORE, not tri processor. Big diffrence!

    michaelm had this to say on Oct 03, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I really don’t think Nintedo is trying to be the next big console. They have been in it long enough to take a steady profit from great, if fewer games on cheaper hardware along with the super popular merchandising.

    SaddlerB had this to say on Oct 03, 2005 Posts: 11
  • xBox Media Center is EASY! You just have to get it on there. I have plans to give my dad a modded xBox for xmas because he wants to play all those movies he’s bittorrenting. No, he’s not a computer genius, he still can’t tell the Mail window from a normal one; however he learned Bitorrent and he’s motivated to watch them on his 27” tv not his 17” one.

    napierzaza had this to say on Oct 03, 2005 Posts: 1
  • You know, for all the Xbox-related hype, I think it’s a piece of garbage. It’s no better than any other system and since games are what make a system, I’ll happily be buying the next Nintendo console due to its untarnished reputation (try to disprove that all you want) via a vast catalogue of amazing games.

    I don’t even care about the PS3 because there’s no way I’m paying more than $300 for a video game console. Sorry, Sony!

    Waa had this to say on Oct 04, 2005 Posts: 110
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