Even though Xbox is pretty much a ubiquitous brand name in the world of technology, it's very rare that we hear about how it got started. Why did Microsoft attempt to get into extremely competitive and volatile console wars? What was their motivation? And most importantly, what was it about the Xbox that pissed off Bill Gates so much?
Business Insider has an interesting article that glosses over the early console war days of Microsoft – how they entered the race and why, as well as the troubles that they faced trying to do what Phil Spencer and his team have currently been able to achieve with the Xbox One: a unified computer entertainment ecosystem.
Microsoft's plan all along was to create the kind of shared experience that the Xbox One and Windows 10 currently share. However, things didn't work out and the team was unable to bridge the Windows operating system with the OG Xbox. According to the Business Insider article...
Eventually, after lots of selling, Brown says, Gates and Ballmer gave the Xbox team $500 million in project funding and a blessing.
The ultimate goal for the Xbox brand was to head off Sony and the PlayStation because Microsoft saw Sony encroaching in on the enterprise market. No matter what you think about Microsoft, they saw that eventually the PlayStation brand could lure in PC developers and the PC market with it. They weren't wrong.
It took a little over three generations but Sony now regularly courts developers and multimedia studios that previously would have stuck with mobile devices and PC. The PS4 has become a major force to be reckoned with and Microsoft saw that potential well over 15 years ago.
Unfortunately for Microsoft they had troubles bridging the ecosystem together between the Xbox and Windows platforms due to the Xbox 360 switching teams and switching architecture – going from x86 to PowerPC. However, the Xbox One (and the PS4) run x86 so that it's now possible to easily port code between Windows APIs and programs and the Xbox One. In fact, Micosoft recently introduced the ability to stream games from the Xbox One to your PC, and they plan on making a feature that also offers the reverse possibility: to stream PC games to the Xbox One.
It's crazy to think that the original vision for the Xbox was always this unified design structure, but it also makes complete sense. Microsoft has been trying for years to bridge that gap, with the Windows Live Store, Games For Windows Live, the XNA Suite, DirectX 10 and now Windows 10. All their previous efforts were stones stepped that led up to the momentous pinnacle of technological harmony that is the Xbox One and Windows 10 bridge.
Microsoft had previously tried making the connection between Windows 8 and the Xbox One (a “soft” version of Windows 8 kernel was running as an OS layer for the Xbox One early in its lifespan), but it wasn't until Windows 10 and a switch in Xbox leadership did Bill Gate's dream of a unified software ecosystem become a reality.