For Microsoft, the Xbox and Xbox 360 were always about more than games. They were seen as a way for the company to move out of the study and stake a claim on the living room. The Xbox 360 has been a bona fide hit in that regard but is still largely considered a games machine. The company is hoping to attract a wider audience with the forthcoming Xbox One, which is being positioned as an all-in-one entertainment box with new features for TV viewing, streaming video and lots more. In light of this, we thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the company's previous assaults on the living room that never quite took off.
Co-founded by Steve Perlman, developer of QuickTime and founder of the popular OnLive service, WebTV was a box that brought web access to regular "dumb" TVs and also included its own proprietary web service. It was later purchased by Microsoft, which integrated it into the company's Microsoft Network (MSN) and renamed it MSN TV.
It was a thin-client and didn't do much more than allow you to surf the web and read and compose emails from your couch. While not offering much in the way of actual computing power, it did allow people to experience the internet on the cheap in the 90's. And believe it or not, Microsoft is finally shutting down the service on September 30th of this year.
Windows Home Server
Windows Home Server (WHS) was an operating system that offered file sharing, automated backups, print server, and remote access capabilities to multiple computers on a user's home network. The ability to stream digital media from computers and devices on the network to a HDTV was one of its main selling points. There were two versions, the first of which was released in 2007 and the most recent, which was called Windows Home Server 2011 and was released in, surprise, surprise, 2011.
Some computer manufacturers developed dedicated server boxes for WHS, HP being the most recognizable major manufacturer of home server boxes. One of its hits was the ProLiant Microserver with four hard drive bays to provide terabytes of storage. Unfortunately, the idea of having a server in your house and being your own system administrator just never caught on with non-techies, although it is still highly regarded by geeks in the home server enthusiast community.
Windows Media Center
This one might be a bit controversial because there are plenty of Windows Media Center (WMC) users who still swear by it. Unfortunately, it never quite gained the level of widespread adoption Microsoft had hoped for. It originally came out in 2005 in the form of Windows XP Media Center edition and was followed by a newer version that was built into Windows Vista Home Premium and above and, subsequently, Windows 7 Home Premium and higher.
If you're a fan of WMC and running Windows 8 Pro, you can still install it provided you shell out US$9.99 for the Windows 8 Media Center pack through the Add Windows features option. Even though it's still around, it seems the company is dropping it in Windows for other mediacentric tech like Xbox Video and Music.
Microsoft has had its sights on our living rooms for years, so will the Xbox One succeed where other attempts have failed? Well, the Xbox 360 has been on the market for nearly 10 years now and has established a loyal user base of millions. Since its release, it's gone through its share of hardware redesigns as well as the introduction of the Kinect motion sensor (which is said to be much improved in the Xbox One). The Xbox 360 already offers a huge library of quality games, and with an Xbox Live membership and a Kinect there's even more capabilities, like voice control, Skype, SkyDrive access, and Internet Explorer, which takes us full circle back to MSN TV.
But it's not just gamers Microsoft is targeting. Along with more powerful gaming hardware, the Xbox One will boast better live TV integration, more streaming entertainment apps, Blu-ray support, simpler integration with Windows 8 and mobile devices, and with an octa-core processor and 8 GB of RAM future service expansion is a definite possibility.
It will allow users to more easily switch between games, music, and live TV services via voice or gesture control and will display a live TV schedule and media that's trending socially. There are also some big names behind it, like Steven Spielberg with the Halo TV series, and an NFL partnership for fantasy football integration. Whether or not the Xbox One will beat out Sony's PS4 in the next-gen console wars remains to be seen. But with the success of Xbox 360, Xbox One has a head start over Microsoft's previous attempts to stake a claim on the living room.
And in case you missed it last week, Larry Hyrb aka "Major Nelson" released an Xbox One unboxing video that you can check out below.