Embracing the UneXpected

Admittedly, I'm not much of a gamer. Mostly because I know that dabbling with them in the past turned into a giant timesuck for me. But it is always interesting to see products like Microsoft's new Xbox One launch.

Technical specs aside (and from this geek's view, they do look pretty cool), the thing that looks most interesting to me here is the potential business impact it could have for Microsoft. The current Xbox 360 has been on the market for seven and a half years already. An eternity compared to most tech products. But in that time, it's done what other Microsoft products couldn't: Grown in this post-PC world and owned it's space.

From Wired's preview article:

"At this point, fewer than 2 million Surface tablets have been sold. Windows Phone has a 3.2 percent share of the smartphone market. The Xbox 360, on the other hand, has sold 77 million units and has been the bestselling game console in the US for 28 straight months. Not to take anything away from Microsoft’s other consumer products, but there’s no longer any question which side the company's bread is buttered on. And if the Interactive Entertainment Business division gets this right, the Xbox One is going to be a very, very big piece of bread."
Peter Rubin - Wired

As an innovation case study, there seems to be a lot to learn from the whole Xbox story. (And I'm realizing I don't enough of it yet. Suggestions for good reading on the topic?) Microsoft has been trying hard to get into the post-PC space for a long time (Surface, Windows Phone, Zune, etc.) and has had pretty poor results. But then here's this amazing exception with the Xbox platform. They've done some great work, truly connected with their gaming tribe, and have the business results to show for it. What can we take away from this story? Only that it's a game of numbers and that most new products fail? I think there's more there.

Certainly a lot of products fail. Or at least most don't turn out nearly as well as hoped. But even in less successful new products, we can learn from both what worked and what didn't. The opportunity is in learning to recognize the wins and being able to pivot to leverage them. It's about being prepared to capitalize on these happy 'accidents' when they turn up. Even when they lead in unexpected directions. Things rarely go exactly as planned, and our ability to adapt well can mean the difference between success and failure.

Microsoft is building on the Xbox platform to expand on and support what their users are already doing with the current generation device. The world has changed a lot since the Xbox debuted but it found a profitable niche that has the potential to be the cornerstone for the company's post-PC strategy. They're reaching beyond just games and developing a full entertainment system for the home (hardware, software, services, and connectivity). They're calling it the 'All-in-one entertainment system'. It's a complex puzzle to figure out but I hope to see them pull it off.