XBOX Turns 14 As Microsoft Retires Zune Brand

Fourteen years ago today, Microsoft, the iconic computer software brand, released their first video game console, the XBOX, meant to compete in, and take over, the world of video gaming from the likes of Nintendo and Sony, who had assumed the top of the mountain with the industry changing Playstation console line. Indeed, Microsoft succeeded, if not in dominating the industry with the Xbox systems, then certainly in changing it and establishing itself as a pioneer in how video games are consumed and enjoyed.

As Winbeta reports, Microsoft put to use its computer know how in building a machine with powerful sound and memory, as well as an ability to play with friends over the internet.

In 1998, four engineers from Microsoft’s DirectX team, Kevin Bachus, Seamus Blackley, Ted Hase and DirectX team leader Otto Berkes, disassembled some Dell laptop computers to construct a prototype Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 2, which was luring game developers away from the Windows platform. The team approached Ed Fries, the leader of Microsoft’s game publishing business at the time, and pitched their “DirectX Box” console based on the DirectX graphics technology developed by Berkes’ team. Fries decided to support the team’s idea of creating a Windows DirectX based console.

During development, the original DirectXbox name was shortened to Xbox. Microsoft’s marketing department did not like the Xbox name, and suggested many alternatives. During focus testing, the Xbox name was left on the list of possible names to demonstrate how unpopular the Xbox name would be with consumers. However, consumer testing revealed that Xbox was preferred by far over the other suggested names and “Xbox” became the official name of the product.

Xbox, Microsoft [Photo Image via Microsoft]With the launch of the console series’ signature Halo first-person shooter game, which proved wildly phenomenal and spun off several follow ups, Microsoft assumed the number three role in the video gaming industry behind Sony and Nintendo as the Xbox console went on to sell over 20 million units. Its successor, the Xbox 360, would offer improved options for purchasing games for digital download via Microsoft’s Xbox Live subscription service alongside movies and television series. The Xbox 360 would sell over 73 million units worldwide.

Xbox, Microsoft [Photo Image via Microsoft]It’s latest iteration, the Xbox One, focuses on internet-based gaming, with features including the ability to record and live stream game play, as well as the ability to stream movies and television to a set top box.

An entire generation has grown up with “Playstation vs. Xbox” replacing the previous generation’s “Nintendo vs. Sega” debate.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s attempt to compete with Apple for the streaming music market appears to have have been less successful than their attempt to dominate video games.
According to Mark Wilson of Betanews, “Zune is dead.”

The Zune released in 2006 and excited the industry with the use of upgradable and removable SD cards, a feature not offered by Apple products. Initially intended as a compliment to the Windows 360 platform with integration into the Xbox Live streaming capability, Microsoft eventually decided to bet it all on the Xbox brand, discontinuing manufacturing of Zune hardware in 2011, and now, ending its streaming/file purchasing app. While the online store will no longer be, Microsoft has announced that music bought and downloaded will still be playable in existing Zune mp3 players.