Microsoft: Self-Destruction

Frank X. Shaw in Measuring Our Work by Its Broad Impact makes the case that innovation is about making a positive impact in the world. (Internet Explorer and Windows Vista come to mind.) The piece by Shaw was in response to a former Microsoft employee, Dick Brass’ op-ed piece Microsoft’s Creative Destruction in The New York Times that argued Microsoft has become a “clumsy, uncompetitive innovator”:

Its products are lampooned, often unfairly but sometimes with good reason. … Its marketing has been inept for years; remember the 2008 ad in which Bill Gates was somehow persuaded to literally wiggle his behind at the camera? … Despite billions in investment, its Xbox line is still at best an equal contender in the game console business.

That last bit about the Xbox prompted Shaw to respond:

… Xbox 360 was the first high-definition console. It was the first to digitally deliver games, music, TV shows and movies in 1080p high definition.

First, this doesn’t make sense at all: music … in 1080p high definition? I’ll just chalk it up to Shaw making a simple mistake. But games in 1080p high definition? I wasn’t quite sure so I checked. According to Wikipedia:

While most games are rendered natively at 720p, the video from all games can be scaled by the hardware to whatever resolution the user has set in the console’s settings; from 480i NTSC and 576i PAL all the way to 1080p HDTV.

Technically speaking most Xbox 360 games are not natively in 1080p format, but in 720p. You’re just scaling it to 1080p. Not the same thing.

Let’s move to movies. I am fairly certain that Xbox 360 does not contain an internal Blu-ray drive. I don’t think you can connect an external Blu-ray drive to the Xbox 360 either. This is partially the result of Microsoft picking the wrong side (HD-DVD) but the company has yet to embrace Blu-ray for its Xbox 360 system. Yes, Shaw did mention digital delivery of 1080p movies and that means you’ll need to use the Xbox LIVE service, which introduced 1080p movie downloads in June 2009. For comparison, Vudu started streaming 1080p movie in October of 2008.

My intention is not to completely discredit Shaw; I merely wanted to get some facts straight. I agree more with Brass that Microsoft needs to shape up. Take this startling revelation about Microsoft’s tablet PC initiative back in 2001:

… the vice president in charge of Office at the time decided he didn’t like the concept. The tablet required a stylus, and he much preferred keyboards to pens and thought our efforts doomed. To guarantee they were, he refused to modify the popular Office applications to work properly with the tablet. So if you wanted to enter a number into a spreadsheet or correct a word in an e-mail message, you had to write it in a special pop-up box, which then transferred the information to Office. Annoying, clumsy and slow.

That’s interesting: you could use those three words to describe a few more Microsoft products. via Daring Fireball