What if Microsoft announces an Xbox tablet?

What if Microsoft announces an Xbox tablet?

Summary: Microsoft has doubled-down on the Xbox as an entertainment hub, but the one thing the company doesn't really have is a portable Xbox solution.

TOPICS: Tablets

Oh, Microsoft is so loving this. Yesterday, Microsoft invited selected members of the press to a mystery event in LA on Monday. So, as you might imagine, the techno-blogo-squalkosphere is going wild speculating on what Redmond might have up its sleeve.

Monday evening, post press-conference update: Okay, let me get this straight. Did Microsoft just kill the Windows tablet OEM market?

Our own Mary Jo Foley has been hot on the trail of truth, but all she's come up with so far is more speculation. One idea was an Xbox Music announcement, another was some sort of Smart Glass thing, another was the possible acquisition of Hulu, and even more recently was the idea that Microsoft was going to announce a Kindle-killer tablet.

So, since I have as little information as anyone else, I couldn't resist. I had to get some skin into the baseless prediction game.

My prediction: an Xbox tablet.

Now, don't hold me to this, for I know not of what I speak. But I can speculate with the best of them, so here's my reasoning.

First, Microsoft can't compete against the Kindle Fire because what makes the Kindle Fire great isn't the tablet-ey goodness, it's the Kindle reader software. The rest is just a skeleton you can hold while you buy and read from Amazon.

Second, Microsoft can't compete directly against the iPad because, well, it's the iPad. It's got an enormous app store, it's iconic, and it's a juggernaut of a product.

Third, Microsoft probably wouldn't bring out it's own Windows 8 tablet. First, that's boring. Second, Microsoft really wants to sell Windows RT to all the tablet makers out there, and coming out with a tablet on their own wouldn't really buy them much.

But there is one market where Microsoft is the 800-pound gorilla of cool: the Xbox. Somehow, when Microsoft set out to make a gaming console, they didn't bring the old, shabby, we-can't-even-make-a-cool-logo, we-have-all-the-legacy-of-Windows-to-lug-around ball and chain to the party.

Instead, they somehow grew a full-body, I'm-too-sexy-for-my-shorts set of skilz and came out with the world-beater Xbox console. And they've consistently grown that market, adding the Kinect, and at the recent E3, announcing Smart Glass -- a system where your Xbox goes with you everywhere.

This makes some sense in the guise of the LA announcement location. Microsoft has doubled-down on the Xbox as an entertainment hub, but the one thing the company doesn't really have is a portable Xbox solution.

Oh, sure, they could have Windows Phone 8 for Tablets (fueled by Nokia), but if that were the case, I don't see the announcement in LA or a big magical, mystery tour.

But adding an Xbox-branded tablet (possibly running on Windows RT), and announcing that in LA? That would be exciting.

Now, to be fair, Microsoft really only lets "the exciting" out of its cage once a decade or so, but it's time. The first Xbox was let loose in November 2001. A decade has passed, so it's time to free another beast.

My prediction, therefore, is an Xbox tablet, priced at $299, able to run downloadable Xbox arcade games, driven by Xbox live, and fully integrated with SmartGlass.

Of course, since I'm making all this up, I could be wrong. We'll all know on Monday.

See also:

What do you think Microsoft will announce? What's your completely groundless speculation? Hey, if I can make stuff up, so can you! TalkBack below.

Topic: Tablets


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • I'd love...

    I'd love a portable XBox experience, but doing so in the form of a tablet would be a mistake, IMHO. Too many compromises involved in tablet gaming (and I say this as a guy who just a few days ago bought NOVA 3 for his ASUS Transformer and is enjoying the game).

    If Microsoft is going to hit the mobile gaming market with both feet on the ground, a much better approach would be with a competitor to Sony's PSP Vita (though I realize that device hasn't exactly set the world on fire as far as sales figures go). The serious gaming enthusiast yearns for physical buttons and knobs to press.
    • .

      i honestly dont yearn to press knobs.
  • I say this as a Microsoft fan (of sorts)

    but... MS has been badly wanting in almost every dept for years now. I still hope to be amazed, but the last few attempts have shown us that they usually are quite happy to put out too little too late, costing too much and generally release half-baked.

    Windows Vista - it just wasn't finished, it was 10 times the size of its predecessor and its new features were..... ?

    Windows 7 - being years later a good OS, but in the end it is just a polished Vista SP3

    WP7 - did it have ANY working features out of the box? and it REQUIRES Zune to copy a picture???? an MS product that doesn't even let you copy a file? My Xbox let's me manage my system memory for goodness sakes!

    Kinect - an AMAZING product, but instead of doing the job properly and integrating it into the Dash 100%, enabling you to interect with your Music and Video libraries, you get integration in some places and then a dedicated dash and you can use it with some games. If I install Kinemote on my Windows PC (a third-party utility) I get more usability from a Kinect than I do from a dedicated Kinect team at Microsoft?? Whats that about?

    As you said in your article, the only thing that seems to be 100% commitment is Xbox. The Xbox1 was an amazing games console and the Xbox360 although it changed things a bit and has taken a while to support backward compatibility etc, is easily the most enjoyable games console around with XBLA and great exclusives.

    Why have MS not committed to making Windows into a great gaming platform again? How hard can it be to agree a set of controller and API standards in your own flippin OS? They already HAVE the developers and hardware on their side. Why have MS not made more out of Kinect for Windows and Xbox?

    Microsoft could also get into MC hardware. It just needs to be an Xbox-like thin set top with something like the dash and an easy way to browse your collections. If it had a Kinect chucked in there it would make competitors offerings seem archaic.

    Why does WP7 not interface with the Xbox itself as a highend remote control, or touch controller?

    And for goodness sakes, WP7 is not considered a premium product in the mobile market, it is the newcomer! Price things accordingly.....
    • WP7

      While I agree with most of your comments, you don't NEED zune to copy a picture on WP7, you can just use the SkyDrive. Also the WP7 does interface with the Xbox 360 as pretty much a touch controller/remote using the official Xbox Companion app. Lets you control your Xbox as well as do Bing searches and has other fairly user friendly features. I do like the WP7 now that it's gotten a lot of the kinks out, hoping WP8 will exceed my expectations.
    • PSP Vita...

      But, the PSP Vita is not exactly warmly welcomed product.. sure, it's nice things and for hard core PSP users, nice to have but.. nothing spectacular, despite the nice hardware. Nothing that hasn't been around already, that is.

      I will not be surprised if Microsoft experiments with an Xbox tablet. But, in my opinion that won't fly any more than the PSP Vita...

      Otherwse, as rare as it is, I do agree with your other points :)
  • Duke Nukem at KPMG

    If Microsoft announces an XBox tablet, the Munchkins will say that enterprises are standardizing on it.
    Robert Hahn
    • But...

      Nobody at the Enterprises is supposed to be using toys!
  • Interesting

    I'd have to say, that is one of the best predictions I've heard in a while. Hoping it's true. Maybe drive their Win8 tablet adoption through the home/xbox? They need something to gain traction over the iPad.
  • What if Microsoft announces an Xbox tablet?

    While it is possible I don't see Microsoft doing that. A tablet is not a good gaming platform. That's not to say they won't hook Xbox into a tablet somehow because they will. They just won't have a dedicated device for such things.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • A bit contradictory?

      "That's not to say they won't hook Xbox into a tablet somehow because they will. They just won't have a dedicated device for such things."

      So Microsoft is going to hook the Xbox to a non-dedicated tablet, like for example the iPad and any Android tablet out there?
      • Nope

        Its not contradictory.
        Loverock Davidson-
    • I'm not sure others agree

      I have a gaming friend who won't part with his ipad for the sheer number of board games that be played on it. With my own board game collection buried under years of dust, tablet versions might find an interest with me (just not at ipad prices).

      I'm not interested in twitch games, though, and that seems to be what Xbox is all about.
  • Here's my guess...

    I believe the key is Andy Lees, and that Mary Jo may be closer to the truth.

    Andy was head of Windows Phone but then... "I have asked Andy Lees to move to a new role working for me on a time-critical opportunity focused on driving maximum impact in 2012 with Windows Phone and Windows 8," Ballmer said

    Andy disappeared until the $300M Newco B&N/Microsoft deal...
    Andy Lees, President at Microsoft. ???Our complementary assets will accelerate e-reading innovation across a broad range of Windows devices, enabling people to not just read stories, but to be part of them. We???re at the cusp of a revolution in reading.???

    Why announce now and not wait for fall with the other Windows 8 tablets? The answer is... "Education".
    ???The formation of Newco and our relationship with Microsoft are important parts of our strategy to capitalize on the rapid growth of the Nook business, and to solidify our position as a leader in the exploding market for digital content in the consumer and education segments,??? said William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble

    I believe they may bring out an eReader, focused on school and education for this fall, with B&N content, and possibly Xbox video streaming and and xBox live games.

    My 2 cents...
    • Worth far more than 2 cents...

      This is a very well-thought out position. ZDNet should hire you...
    • You might be correct

      It is fact of life, that Microsoft tries to copy *everything* Apple does. Earlier this year, Apple announced new things about Education. That is going to create huge market. Now is the perfect time for Microsoft to say "me too" and put their weight and perception that they know what they are doing in the game. A lot of people, who were seeing Apple as the only game in town will willingly jump to Microsoft. They may not deliver, but.. who cares? This is business. Many would have already invested in Microsoft technology, just as with the IBM PCs.
      Smart move and typical Microsoft.
  • I like this kind of prediction much better...

    ..at least the writers I see making these predictions on Microsoft's forthcoming announcement have good reason to make predictions, for starters; there is going to be something happening for sure, we don't know what, the situation begs for predictions. Secondly, the writers are not simply saying "here is what I believe is going to happen", and they certainly are not saying "this is what IS going to happen", in stead they are all admitting right up front all they are providing is mere food for thought that is admittedly nothing more than speculation all in good fun.

    No harm in these kind of predictions. It only tends to get tedious when we see writers predicting product downfalls of products yet to be released, or new kinds of IT suddenly springing to the forefront practically taking the world over.

    Usually with the latter kind of predictions there is not only insufficient information to be so bold as to literally predict the particular thing is very likely to happen, there is often some significant information, sometimes compelling information that indicates it isn't likely to happen and the writers who write such predictions seem to ignore all that in favor of personal biases that seem to be clearly driving his/her predictions as more of a wish then a logically thought out likelihood of a significant turn of events actually taking place in the near future.

    Theres no doubt about it that predictions can come in many flavors. There are ones like the predictions about Microsoft's announcement that naturally spawn predictions due to the very nature of the situation, and when those predictions are given with the caveat that stipulates they are simply making a best guess, there is certainly no harm in that. Then on the other end of the spectrum there are the predictions that seem to come out of nowhere, simply someones interest in a particular topic or issue of current interest they arbitrarily decide to predict some eventuality that will occur related to the specific topic or issue without strong regard for all the facts that exist. When those kind of predictions are put in terms of "this is what I expect will happen here" its just too too much, particularly when a blind eye is too often turned away from significant facts that would indicate otherwise.
  • That...Would...Be...


    and a very cool way to make Xbox Glass rock it even harder.

    Yes, I know it's called SmartGlass, but seriously, it's time to call it Xbox Glass and make it into a tablet. I like it and would buy it just on the announcement.
  • My guess

    Microsoft is making a Windows TV and has signed media deals with major content providers.
  • Would be killer but only if....

    It would be a killer idea but only if its in 10" and 7" format..Does not run any metro crap and has full 1080 output via hdmi.If it runs any form of Metro its a dead on arrival idea no matter what it is...Put windows 7 with better battery life and you have something.
  • Errr.....

    Ran out of things to blog? Slow news day?