Xbox One is just Microsoft's latest attempt to own the living room


August 11, 2013

Web TV, which allowed you to surf the web on your TV, was bought by Microsoft in the late 90's and renamed MSN TV

Web TV, which allowed you to surf the web on your TV, was bought by Microsoft in the late 90's and renamed MSN TV

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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.

Some computer manufacturers built WMC-based home theater PCs (HTPCs) for enthusiasts, but many home users opted for cheaper and easier to use set-top boxes like the Apple TV or Roku.

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.

Summing up

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.

About the Author
Brian Burgess Brian Burgess resides in Minnesota. A technology enthusiast his entire life, he worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. In addition to contributing to Gizmag, he’s the Editor in Chief at and has written for other notable tech sites Byte, InformationWeek, and How-To Geek. Away from the keyboard, you're likely to find him listening to heavy metal, playing guitar, or watching Star Trek. All articles by Brian Burgess

You forgot to mention that our 'huge library of quality games' can't be played on it.

They assume a lot of people have the internet on their TV? I have it on my home and work mobiles, but don't have the sort of data allowance that would gothat far.


My thoughts on why the XBox One could also fail to own the living room:

1) Existing gamers may not want the XBox One because they can't play their existing collection of XBox360 games on it 2) Non-gamers probably won't want it because the XBox name is associated with gaming. Yes, it's a perception but it's a real one. Why on earth would my parents, for example, be wanting to by an XBox when they have no interest in games? (I can hear them saying) I'm sure Microsoft's marketting department will be in overdrive to try and change perceptions but it's a hard sell. 3) The GFC. When the xbox360 came out there was plenty of money to throw around for that new console. Times have dramatically changed since the GFC a few years ago and now funds are tight for a lot of people.

I think the PS4 could also suffer the same kind of fate for the reasons stated above (I don't know if item 1 applies to the PS4 or not).

Mikey T

If they want a good sell, make it profitable for the retailers. If the margin for the stores is better for the XBOX One than, say, a PS4, there will be lots of individual employees pushing the XBOX One because it looks better for THEM. Higher margin at the end of the day means better sales.


For me Xbox was always a Media Centre first and gaming machine second. I've just Windows Media Centre for all my content stored on the PC. And its been working great. Microsoft has now dropped support for WMC in Xbox One which means I'm not jumping to it in a hurry. Will be waiting to see what support, update or change they make to all me to plug WMC back into the new Xbox. until then I'm sticking with my current setup which works flawlessly.

Samale Matina
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