Many have observed that Microsoft seems to have been caught a bit flat footed by the unveiling of PlayStation 4 on 20 February. However, as Microsoft's VP of the Interactive Entertainment Business Phil Harrison stated back in November: "We're no longer just competing with the traditional console companies, but our competitive landscape includes the likes of Google, the likes of Amazon, it includes obviously the likes of Apple".
When the next Xbox is revealed on 21 May, yes it will be following in the wake of the PS4 announcement from that other "traditional console company", but perhaps more importantly to the suits in Redmond, it will be appearing ahead of any possible Smart TV reveal that Apple might be planning.
Gaming is just one part of the new Xbox, just one facet of what it can do. Fundamentally the new Xbox is more than just a games console; it is a Smart TV box.
Microsoft has learnt from the success of the iPod, iPhone and iPad in cracking open new markets. The Windows creator knows that it will take an exceptional product to finally usher in the Smart TV revolution, but the company also knows that the rewards for delivering such breakthrough products are colossal.
It's this line of thinking which has led Microsoft to a shift from a software-centric strategy, to a new focus on hardware innovation as a means of driving software success.
This is why the launch of Windows 8 was accompanied by the launch of Surface, and it will continue with the next Xbox as a Trojan horse designed to position Microsoft at the epicenter of media and entertainment.
The evolution of Xbox 360 is indicative of this, with more and more entertainment and social media applications being added to the mix and SmartGlass being lined up as Microsoft's secret weapon to ensure Xbox is the source of your entertainment, even when the destination is an Android or iOS powered tablet for the moment.
The new Xbox is not merely a traditional console. An upgraded version of Kinect will no doubt be bundled with the console, providing that all important smart-UI, and rumours suggest you can run your television feed through it enabling smart menus and apps to be layered on top.
This is a box designed to finally usher in the Smart TV era and give Microsoft the ownership of the living it has long desired. The next Xbox is a hugely important product for Microsoft, and its betting big on it. If it gets it right, the Smart TV revolution might finally get the kick start it needs.
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