Microsoft’s Xbox console came to life on November 15, exactly 10 years ago.
The original Xbox launched in the U.S. initially before heading to European, Australian and Japanese markets in early 2002. The Xbox marked Microsoft’s first entry into the console market and went head to head with Sony’s PlayStation 2, Sega’s Dreamcast and Nintendo’s GameCube consoles. The Xbox was made up of a rather large unit emblazoned with an X. The Xbox was based on PC hardware and featured a DVD-ROM drive and a 8 or 10GB 3.5-inch hard drive. The system featured a 733MHz Intel Pentium III processor alongside 64MB of RAM and a 233MHz NVIDIA graphics card. Microsoft also opted to run the Xbox using a custom operating system, built from the Windows 2000 kernel.
The launch of the Xbox saw the introduction of Halo, a massively popular first person shooter that still exists today. The original Halo release was the most successful launch game for Xbox and Halo 2, the sequel, is the best-selling Xbox game worldwide. Microsoft followed up its November 15 launch in 2001 by launching Xbox LIVE a year later on November 15, 2002. The service propelled Microsoft’s Xbox console into the mainstream. Around 250,000 people signed up for the service within two months of its launch. Xbox LIVE reached one million subscribers by July 2004 and two million in July 2005.
Microsoft unveiled its successor to the Xbox, the Xbox 360, during an MTV show on May 12, 2005. The console went on sale on November 22, 2005 in the U.S. and Canada. The Xbox 360 then launched in Europe on December 2 and December 10 for Japan. The console launched in other international markets and was made available in 36 countries during its first year launch. The Xbox 360 sold out in all regions at launch apart from Japan. The original Xbox 360 “core” featured a matte white finish, wired controller and no HDD storage. Microsoft also launched a “Pro” offering initially that featured a 20GB HDD, wireless controller, wired headset and ethernet port. The original console hardware has since been replaced and restyled. Microsoft now offers an S model with 320GB HDD, HDMI port, transforming d-pad controllers and Gears of War 3, Modern Warfare 3 or Star Wars branding.
Microsoft has kept its Xbox brand, hardware and software fresh over the years. The company launched its controller-less console accessory for the Xbox 360 across the world in November. The Kinect sensor is a horizontal bar that sits at the base of your TV. The device has an RGB camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone which runs proprietary software. Kinect allows for full-body 3D motion capture, facial recognition, and voice recognition. Owners will be able to interact with games titles using just their body. Pausing TV and fast forwarding movies can be achieved using a mix of hand movements and voice control.
Microsoft’s Kinect sensor has been a phenomenal success story for the company. The console accessory sold out across a number of retailers during last year’s festive season and Microsoft smashed its own estimates of 5 million units in 2010 by shipping 10 million devices. Microsoft’s Kinect accessory has also broken a Guinness World Record. Guinness World Records officially named Kinect for Xbox 360 the fastest-selling consumer electronics device, which sold an average of 133,333 units per day for a total of eight million units in its first 60 days between November 4, 2010 and January 3, 2011.
The future of Xbox is largely full of rumors at this stage. The software giant is expected to announce a new Xbox console next year, based on Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Microsoft is also readying a dashboard update for existing consoles. Microsoft started to push beta copies of the Xbox 360 fall dashboard update out to testers on Thursday. The November dashboard update will bring Microsoft’s Metro style interface to the Xbox. Microsoft is also preparing to include YouTube and Bing on the Xbox. Bing users will be able to use Kinect’s voice recognition feature to search for movies, music and other content on their consoles. The new dashboard will also enable Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone integration with Xbox, see a video demonstration here.
With soaring sales, the Xbox doesn’t look like it’s a brand that consumers are willing to stop buying into anytime soon. Microsoft now has a unique opportunity to position its Windows and Windows Phone products around the Xbox brand to win back consumer popularity. If the past 10 years are anything to go by then the next 10 years will be an interesting time for mobile, PC and Xbox gamers. Happy Birthday Xbox.