Winning Real-World Games

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-12-10 Print this article Print

My latest visit with CBS News was not to chat about antitrust, privacy or e-business. They wanted to talk about game machines.

My latest visit with CBS News was not to chat about antitrust, privacy or e-business. They wanted to talk about game machines: The Toy, The Tool and The Platform, as I call the three contenders in this holiday seasons biggest fight for your wallets. The Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox each represent different responses to the same pressures shaping enterprise IT in the coming year.

The GameCube is The Toy. Its like a Handspring handheld: compact, attractive, affordable and well-focused. Turning Nintendos own Game Boy Advance handheld into a controller with its own local display is ingenious and makes me wonder why all game controllers havent evolved some means for giving information to a player without revealing it to competitors. Thats also the challenge for IT security architects, who are learning that perimeter security doesnt work in a business environment where almost anyone can be both a partner and a competitor.

The PlayStation 2 is The Tool. It tucks itself into your entertainment area, including DVD playback in its base configuration and providing backward compatibility with earlier PlayStation games (unlike the GameCube, which lacks compatibility with Nintendo 64). You dont need to fight for a PS2: Availability is high, and the quality of the games is a sure thing. Customers will reward this attitude of putting customer needs first. One hopes that IT vendors will do likewise, for example by continuing to offer Windows 2000 until enterprises actually ask (if they ever do) for Windows XP.

The Xbox is The Platform—with a great big hard disk (unlike either competitor) and built-in Ethernet (ditto). Under paragraph VI.Q of the Microsoft settlement, the Xbox (lacking a keyboard) is not a "Personal Computer" and is therefore a whole new opportunity for domination—perhaps as a network gateway, propelled into that role by online gaming. But its realistic graphics arent the same thing as play value, just as moving around more information is not the same thing as making IT more productive.

What do you want to find in your stocking? Tell me at

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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