Microsoft Poised to Rule Entertainment, Devices World: Part 3

Q&A: Microsoft's Robbie Bach talks devices, games and mobile at the Mix conference in Las Vegas. This is Part 3 of the eWEEK interview.


LAS VEGAS—Robbie Bach, president of Microsofts Entertainment & Devices Division, spoke with eWEEK senior editor Darryl K. Taft at the Microsoft Mix conference here. This is Part 3 of the interview.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read Part 1 of the interview.

So, is Nintendo disrupting things for you, or were you surprised to see them?

Im actually not—the product has gotten more broad-base acclaim that I would have expected. Its a very nice product, but it actually has a relatively specific audience and a fairly specific appeal, frankly, based on one feature, which is the controller itself. And the rest of the product is actually not a great product—no disrespect, but … the video graphics on it arent very strong; the box itself is kind of underpowered; it doesnt play DVDs; there are a lot of down-line components [that] arent actually that interesting.

In the casual space theyre going to do very well, because the controller is pretty intuitive and the game experience is pretty simple, and Nintendo can produce a lot of those simple game experiences themselves.

The challenge they have is that third parties arent going to make much money on this platform because Nintendo is going to make all that money, and their ability to compete with something like a Halo or produce an experience like Madden on their system is going to be tough. They dont have the graphics horsepower that even Xbox 1 had. So it makes sort of the comparison set a little bit difficult.

So the challenge for us is how do we drive to more casual users, and how do we bring more casual experiences to Xbox and Windows? And the challenge for them is figuring out, "Hey, how do I broaden beyond a casual demographic?" Well see how that plays out.

Its interesting to note that a year ago if somebody had said, "Hey, we wont be discussing Sony," thats an interesting statement, and I think something that frankly hasnt been written about very much.

So, do you feel that Nintendo is a more fierce competitor than Sony?

I think Nintendo and Microsoft are clearly in the drivers seat on whats happening in this generation. And theyre different drivers seats. In a way, … our circle and Sonys circle overlap I would say 90 percent. Nintendos circle and Microsofts overlap say 20, 25, 30 percent, something like that. We had people laughing and call it the Wii 360 because you already see a lot of dual-household ownership.

But Sony I think has some real challenges. Theyve got a pricing problem, they have a cost problem, they have a content problem, and they dont have an online service. But Im just talking about the psychology of me doing an interview with you as a reporter coming in and not uttering the word Sony without me bringing it up.

Do you think things like the recent BlackBerry outage will create an opportunity for Windows Mobile to increase its franchise in the mobile e-mail space?

I think what happens in all of these things is over time … quality rises to the top. Over time people expect reliability, and reliability does become a purchase criteria. And I think its a space where the Microsoft brand name absolutely helps us.

You know, in general in the businesses I work on, sometimes you could say, "Hey, Microsoft, is that an entertainment brand? Oh, isnt that the Windows and Office and SQL Server brand? And tools, gosh, they dont feel very entertaining to me." But when it comes to things like this, when I want my mail and I want to know its going to be there, then the Microsoft brand has big-time value. And its where the RIM BlackBerry brand doesnt help frankly as much. So, I do think it creates some opportunities.

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