Back in college, the Xbox 360 video game console was my constant companion. We’d spend hours together, playing games either alone or with friends.
Once the console got a Netflix app circa 2008, we spent even more time together. Just about the only thing I didn’t use it for was getting any kind of work done. It’s a games console, after all.
But the Xbox One, the successor to the Xbox 360, is increasingly well-positioned to do everything — games, entertainment, productivity. And at a current $US350 MSRP (with a copy of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, to boot), the Xbox One may well be your next computer.
The first data point here is Microsoft’s longstanding commitment to putting a full-blown version of the forthcoming Windows 10 operating system on the Xbox One console, though it’s being coy about the timing.
This is important, because a major selling point for Windows 10 is “universal apps.” This is the idea that any Windows 10 app will work on any Windows 10 device — phone, tablet, computer, futuristic HoloLens or, once it gets the update, the Xbox One. It also means there’s nothing stopping you from running, say, the Windows 10 versions of Microsoft Office on a Windows 10-updated Xbox One.
That might not seem like something you’d want to do right now. While the Xbox controller is great for playing games, and works well enough as a remote control when watching movies, it’s not exactly a rich input device for writing term papers.
But that will change. Xbox boss Phil Spencer said on Twitter yesterday that Microsoft is working on mouse and keyboard support for the Xbox One.
Most of the ensuing conversation focused on how this would let the Xbox One handle a wider array of games — hardcore gamers favour a mouse and keyboard setup for reflex-intensive games like first-person shooters and strategy games.
But there is plenty of other potential: An Xbox One with a mouse and keyboard, and access to the full range of Windows 10 apps, makes for a cheap $US350 computer that can rock Microsoft Office but still play the graphics-intensive games of today.
Considering that the Xbox One already lets you stream games from the console to a Windows 10 PC, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched to imagine that Microsoft wants to bring the two platforms closer together. In fact, the Xbox One’s main menu already looks more than a little bit like Windows 10’s Start menu.
Just as the Surface Pro tablet is now Microsoft’s flagship tablet/laptop hybrid, the Xbox One could become Microsoft’s flagship desktop computer/gaming console hybrid, giving the company a foothold into a market where currently it has none.
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