The end of the Xbox 360 is the end of an era for Microsoft

Phil spencer microsoft xbox
Microsoft Xbox head Phil Spencer Getty Images/Kevork Djansezian

It’s official: After more than a decade, Microsoft is halting production of its beloved Xbox 360 video game console.

With sales of the console reaching 84 million since the November 2005 launch, this news marks the end of an era for video games. But it also marks the end of an era for Microsoft itself, as the Xbox business is brought closer into the company’s core.

Something you hear from a lot of Microsoft employees is that the Xbox business is almost like a different company entirely, doing its own thing with minimal interaction or interference. It has a reputation for being isolated from the rest of Microsoft.

Indeed, Xbox has always been a weird case for Microsoft: The first Xbox console started as a Bill Gates-sanctioned experiment to improve Windows for the living room, but it shipped with a custom operating system mostly unlike anything else Microsoft offered.

The Xbox 360 was even weirder, by Microsoft standards — not only did it not run Windows, it had a PowerPC processor under the hood. At the time of the Xbox 360’s introduction, the only computers that were really using PowerPC processors were Apple’s Macs. Like I said, weird.

Still, both consoles were big hits, and the Xbox 360 far outsold the competing Sony PlayStation 3.

Xbox 360
Microsoft Xbox 360 YouTube

But everything changed with the introduction of the Xbox One console in 2013, the successor to the Xbox 360. Like its forebears, the Xbox One didn’t run Windows, either. Unlike the Xbox and the Xbox 360, the Xbox One’s sales were slow out of the gate. It carried a higher price tag than the PlayStation 4, and required the use of the lacklustre Kinect sensor at launch.

Since 2013, two important things have happened: First, Microsoft got a new CEO in the form of Satya Nadella, who’s had great success already in unifying the company under one banner. Second, the Xbox business is now headed up by Phil Spencer, a team player who’s indicated his desire to bring the ship closer to the fleet, so to speak.

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Bill Gates unveils the original Xbox at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO/Jeff Christensen

In late 2015, the Xbox One got an update that brought a custom version of the Windows 10 operating system to the console. Some time this summer, the Xbox One will get access to a version of the Windows Store app market, too.

It means that an Xbox is finally getting Windows, which it turn means that it’s finally snuggling up to the company’s core business units.

And with the discontinuation of the Xbox 360 console, it means that the only Xbox you can buy is one that supports Windows 10. That’s important groundwork for Nadella’s vision of a Windows-everywhere future.

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