The Xbox officially has a new boss today -- former Windows boss and long-time Microsoft veteran Julie Larson-Green. No big gaming experience, unlike former game developer Don Mattrick, who last held the job. But, Microsoft did have stuff to say about gaming when announcing today's big reorganization of company management.
What Microsoft had to say about gaming matters in the sense that the company has been sending mixed signals for a couple of years about how serious it still is about the Xbox as a gaming device.
There was little doubt that the original Xbox was for dedicated gamers. But the 360? It definitely was at the start, but Microsoft's successes with Netflix, Kinect and other non-gaming or semi-gaming aspects of the businesses left ample room for doubt about how central gaming would be to the Xbox's future.
Microsoft's May 21 Xbox One reveal event focused heavily on TV and sports and drew backlash from gamers.
Microsoft's E3 press conference a few weeks later was wall-to-wall games and, in that sense, assuaged doubts.
A few weeks later, on July 1, Mattrick abruptly departed Microsoft, leaving company boss Steve Ballmer to note the departure in a public memo and say the following less-than-encouraging things about gaming [emphasis added by Kotaku]:
Since joining IEB more than six years ago, Don and his team have accomplished much. Xbox Live members grew from 6 million to 48 million. Xbox 360 became the No. 1 selling console in North America the past two years. We introduced Kinect and have sold more than 24 million sensors. We released fantastic games, and, most importantly, we expanded Xbox to go beyond great gaming to deliver all the entertainment people want -- sports, music, movies, live television and much more.
Today, July 11, Microsoft released a big vision statement for the company that isn't bylined by Ballmer but is referenced by the Microsoft CEO in his own memo about the company's reorganization. "This memo," he writes, referring to the vision statement, "shows you how far we have developed our thinking on our strategy for high-value activities based on devices and services delivery."
So what's that vision statement say about gaming?
Here's the full vision statement with the gaming parts bolded by Kotaku for your convenience:
Transforming Our CompanyJuly 11, 2013
As the times change, so must our company.
In the 37 years that Microsoft has been helping to improve people’s lives by helping them to realise their own potential with technology, we have seen exactly the kind of transformation we had hoped for when we set out to put a PC on every desk and in every home. Personal technology has developed from an idea to an everyday experience, reaching and connecting billions of people.
With the more recent growth of broadband and the mobile Internet as well as the development of newer devices such as tablets and smartphones, consumers’ experiences and use of technology have fundamentally changed again. We have entered an always-on, always-connected era that holds new promise for what technology can bring to people’s lives and to businesses everywhere on the planet. And this gives us an opportunity to help people lean in and do more in every part of their lives.
A few years ago in a speech I gave at CES, I observed that there was a shift underway. We were headed from a phone, a PC and a TV to simply three screens and a cloud -- and over time, a common software-based intelligence would drive all of these devices, bringing them together into one experience for the consumer.
As devices proliferate, it has become clearer that consumers crave one experience across all of their technology. Yet today, they often face different experiences on their PC as compared to their phone or their tablet. As technology moves from people’s desks to everywhere in their lives, it should become simpler, not more complex. And our products and services should operate as one experience across every device.
Together, the leadership team looked at how we could renew and reorient Microsoft for this new time. We focused on how we could continue our mission of improving and empowering people’s lives through technology but with a new North Star far beyond putting a PC on every desk and in every home.
In the end, we realised our strengths are in high-value activities, powering devices and enterprise services. And we realised we could bring those strengths together in a unique, differentiated experience that will delight consumers and customers.
Going forward, our strategy will focus on creating a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most.
To take advantage of our critical competitive assets, we will centre our work on the following:
- A business model based on partner and first-party devices with both consumer and enterprise services
- Optimization for activities people value most
- A family of devices powered by a service-enabled shell
- Design for enterprise extensibility and enterprise needs
These will be key guiding principles as we design and create the next generation of new and amazing experiences that drive our family of devices and services to market in this fast-changing and highly competitive world. We will at the same time continue to build upon and expand the base we have in enterprise services and adapt them to the latest trends developing in the workplace.
Building upon Windows, Xbox and our growing suite of consumer and enterprise services, we will design, create and deliver through us and through third parties a complete family of Windows-powered devices -- devices that can help people just as much in their work life as they do after hours. Devices that help people do more and play harder.
We will strive for a single experience for everything in a person’s life that matters. One experience, one company, one set of learnings, one set of apps, and one personal library of entertainment, photos and information everywhere. One store for everything. Microsoft has the clear opportunity to offer consumers a unified experience across all aspects of their life, whether the screen is a small wearable, a phone, a tablet, an 85-inch display or other screens and devices we have not yet even imagined.
Look at our tremendous assets. We have a super-intelligent cloud that understands people and can solve problems for them. We have a platform that is adaptable to every screen -- big, small, mobile, institutional, personal and even wearable -- and is defined by a set of universal services that meet people’s needs at home, work and school. We have a gaming and home entertainment platform second to none. We excel not only at the things people do most often but also by what matters the most to them. Our platform, services and apps are not limited just to activities in people’s personal lives but also span their professional lives. We have focused not only on what matters most to individuals but also on what’s vital to businesses around the globe, IT managers and developers.
In the critical choice today of digital ecosystems, Microsoft has an unmatched advantage in work and productivity experiences, and has a unique ability to drive unified services for everything from tasks and documents to entertainment, games and communications. I am convinced that by deploying our smart-cloud assets across a range of devices, we can make Windows devices once again the devices to own. Other companies provide strong experiences, but in their own way they are each fragmented and limited. Microsoft is best positioned to take advantage of the power of one, and bring it to our over 1 billion users.
Defining Our Way Forward
In moving to a strategy of devices and integrated services, we are driven by history, market reality and opportunity.
From the delivery of the first PC and even the first Xbox, our magic has always been in bringing devices alive with services that made them highly valuable to consumers. For decades, our software has been at the core of what our OEMs build and what enterprises deploy to make their workers productive. We are bringing the power of touch to phones, tablets and PCs with our new Windows 8 software. Our Kinect is the first sensor that offers fully natural input with you as the controller. As devices of all kinds become an integral part of our daily routine, the power to bring them alive in new ways will become even more important and valuable.
On top of this, we have been building an expanding base of consumer services -- Bing, Skype, Internet Explorer, SkyDrive, Outlook and Xbox entertainment services. They all deliver critical services that consumers need in the areas of insight and information, task completion, communication and fun. We have been investing in and advancing each of these key applications. Office, Office 365 and other enterprise assets give us unique advantages in the workplace while Azure is opening up the cloud to more and more enterprises.
The bedrock of our new strategy is innovation in deep, rich, high-value experiences and activities. It’s the starting point for differentiated devices integrated with services. It’s at the core of how we will inspire ourselves all to do our best work and bring to our customers the very things that will make a difference in their lives.
Most of the time, people use technology casually -- listening to a quick song, finding a movie, catching up on the news on Flipboard, playing Angry Birds or checking in on Facebook. We will make sure our consumers can do the everyday well. But people also turn to technology for more important tasks in their lives -- and we will focus our energies on creating new, memorable and even extraordinary experiences across our family of devices and services. Think of the student stuck on that term paper looking to display all his creativity in ways that will get him an A+; the family that’s getting together for a reunion and wants the delightful memories to last forever online; the gamer who is taking his fantasy team to the playoffs; or any of us who could be faced with a tough medical decision and needs to plan care and finances.
Such high-value activities include the full breadth and depth of areas like personal expression, decision-making and tasks, social communication, and serious fun -- and we have both the drive and the capacity to reinvent these experiences for people across the globe.
- Reinventing expression and documents. People love and need to express themselves in new ways. Documents are going from being printed to being experienced. There are many high-value needs for personal creative expression -- some just for fun, others at work or at school. We will reinvent the tools and form of expressing oneself (and expressing things as a group) from paper and slides to online. We will ensure that the tools handle multimedia (photos, videos, text, charts and slides) in an integrated way and natively online. These documents/websites will be easily sharable and easily included in meetings. They will offer complex options such as imbedded logic and yet be easy to author, search and view. These documents will be readable from a browser, but the experience will be infinitely better if read, annotated or presented with our tools.
- Next-generation decision-making and task completion. Our machine learning infrastructure will understand people’s needs and what is available in the world, and will provide information and assistance. We will be great at anticipating needs in people’s daily routines and providing insight and assistance when they need it. When it comes to life’s most important tasks and events, we will pay extra attention. The research done, the data collected and analysed, the meetings and discussions had, and the money spent are all amplified for people during life’s big moments. We will provide the tools people need to capture their own data and organise and analyse it in conjunction with the massive amount of data available over the Web. Bing, Excel and our InfoNav innovations are all important here. Decision-making and tasks mean different things in personal versus professional lives, yet they are important in both places.
- Social communication (meetings, events, gathering, sharing and communicating). Social communications are time-intensive, high-value scenarios that are ripe for digital re-imagination. Such innovation will include new ways to participate in work meetings, PTA and nonprofit activities, family and social gatherings, and more. We can reimagine email and other communication vehicles as the lines between these vehicles grow fuzzy, and the amount of people’s digital or digitally assisted interaction continues to grow. We can create new ways to interact through hardware, software and new services. Next-gen documents and expression are an important part of online social communications. We will not focus on becoming another social network for people to participate in casually, though some may use these products and services that way.
- Serious fun. This expression may sound like an oxymoron, yet it encapsulates an important point of differentiation for us. There are many things people do for light fun, for example play solitaire, spend three minutes on a word game or surf the TV. Although we will enable these activities effectively, our biggest opportunity is in creating the fun people feel most intensely, such as playing a game that lasts hours and takes real concentration, or immersing them in live events and entertainment (including sports, concerts, education and fitness) while allowing interactive participation. Interactivity takes engagement and makes things serious; it really requires differentiated hardware, apps and services. People want to participate at home and on the go, and in gatherings with others. We see a unique opportunity to make experiencing events with others more exciting with interactivity. We also see opportunity in fitness and health because, for many, this is serious fun much more than it is a task.
Our Family of Devices
No technology company has as yet delivered a definitive family of devices useful all day for work and for play, connected with every bit of a person’s information available through one cloud. We see tremendous room for innovation in software, services and hardware to bring the consumer this new, more complete and enveloping experience.
Our family will include a full spectrum of both partner and first-party devices. We believe we need all of these categories to drive innovation, fulfil market desire for diversity of experience, and achieve volume.
Our family will include phones, tablets, PCs, 2-in-1s, TV-attached devices and other devices to be imagined and developed. No other company has such strength across so many categories today, and yet this strength is essential to being relevant and personal throughout people’s lives. Our devices must share a common user-interface approach tailored to each hardware form factor. They must deliver experiences based on a common set of services such as the same account login or a common understanding of people and their relationships. They need to share the same services infrastructure so that the information an individual has shared on one device can be available and carry across all the devices in the family. Our devices must support the same high-value activities in ways that are meaningful across different device types. Developers must be able to target all our devices with a common programming model that makes it easy to target more than one device.
We will continue to reinvent the core “shell” of our family of devices and build upon what we have started with Windows 8. We will keep evolving our new modern look, expanding the shell so that it allows people and their devices to capture, store and organise their “stuff” in new ways. Our UI will be deeply personalised, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it.
The experience we will deliver across all our devices centres on the idea of better connecting people with the things they care about most. This includes their files, documents, photos, videos, notes, websites, snippets, digital history, schedules, tasks, and mail and other messages, combined with real-time information from our devices and services. It is more than what we think of as the shell today, and no current label really fits where we are headed. Neither the desktop nor the social graph describes this new experience, and neither does the search box, the pin board or the file system. The shell will support the experiences layer and broker information among our services to bring them together on our devices in ways that will enable richer and deeper app experiences.
With these innovations in software, hardware and services, we will develop the only ecosystem that promotes variety in hardware but coherence in the user experience. Other companies do one without the other. Only we can bring it all together to create one experience for everything that’s important in people’s lives.
Enterprises buy productivity, insights and peace of mind. We have worked for over 25 years to build an incredible reputation in enterprise that sets us apart and serves as a key differentiator in and of itself. Our new strategy will put us right at the intersection of the consumerization of IT and the evolving needs of the enterprise customer, delivering the devices that employees want and the productivity, security and control that IT managers need.
We will engage enterprise on all sides -- investing in more high-value activities for enterprise users to do their jobs; empowering people to be productive independent of their enterprise; and building new and innovative solutions for IT professionals and developers. We will also invest in ways to provide value to businesses for their interactions with their customers, building on our strong Dynamics foundation.
Specifically, we will aim to do the following:
- Facilitate adoption of our devices and end-user services in enterprise settings. This means embracing consumerization of IT with the vigor we pursued in the initial adoption of PCs by end users and business in the ’90s. Our family of devices must allow people to be more productive, and for them to easily use our devices for work.
- Extend our family of devices and services for enterprise high-value activities. We have unique expertise and capacity in this space.
- Information assurance. Going forward this will be an area of critical importance to enterprises. We are their trusted partners in this space, and we must continue to innovate for them against a changing security and compliance landscape.
- IT management. With more IT delivered as services from the cloud, the function of IT itself will be reimagined. We are best positioned to build the tools and training for that new breed of IT professional.
- Big data insight. Businesses have new and expanded needs and opportunities to generate, store and use their own data and the data of the Web to better serve customers, make better decisions and design better products. As our customers’ online interactions with their customers accelerate, they generate massive amounts of data, with the cloud now offering the processing power to make sense of it. We are well-positioned to reimagine data platforms for the cloud, and help unlock insight from the data.
- Customer interaction. organisations today value most those activities that help them fully understand their customers’ needs and help them interact and communicate with them in more responsive and personalised ways. We are well-positioned to deliver services that will enable our customers to interact as never before -- to help them match their prospects to the right products and services, derive the insights so they can successfully engage with them, and even help them find and create brand evangelists.
- Software development. Finally, developers will continue to write the apps and sites that power the world, and integrate to solve individual problems and challenges. We will support them with the simplest turnkey way to build apps, sites and cloud services, easy integration with our products, and innovation for projects of every size.
Our Spirit Going Forward
Our brand must reflect this plan and its employees -- personal, valued, inspired and forward-looking. We will take our products and our customers to new places. We will be on a new path centered around delivering high-value activities on a family of devices with integrated services. We will all be working in new ways together to meet new challenges. But our spirit and values are the same enduring ones that launched this company. Our North Star may be new, but our mission of helping people to realise their full potential through technology remains the same. As the great American baseball player Babe Ruth once said, "It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up." Well, that is all of us at Microsoft. At no time have I had more confidence in this team and this company to succeed in the changing world as today. At no time have I seen more promise and capacity for us to bring new and exciting products to every person on the planet.