Microsoft's forthcoming Xbox One console is the company's vision for living room entertainment for the next half decade. Today at GigaOm's Roadmap conference in San Francisco, Carl Ledbetter, who led the industrial design of the console, discussed how it came to fruition.
The design of the new console, according to Ledbetter, employs a resin molding technique that makes its appearance more similar to high-end televisions. This is a small point, but one that matters: Microsoft has taken hits from Sony that its console is less game focused than the PlayStation. Perhaps that's fair. Recall that the Xbox 360 suffered from manufacturing defects at launch that led to the infamous Red Ring of Death. Presumably, we aren't going to see a repeat of that, but it underscores how badly launches can go.
And as Microsoft increasingly points its console at the broader media market, it also breaks out of the young male-dominated gaming segment. Put another way, according to Ledbetter, 40 percent of Xbox's users are women. That led to the changes in the Xbox One design. The controller was a simple pain point: It needed to accept more hand sizes. Ledbetter claims that they built nearly 200 models before they settled on one.
The final component Ledbetter hit on was voice. (I presume you are familiar with Xbox Music and don't need me to walk you down that specific alley.) It's easy to forget that Microsoft is, through the Xbox One and new Kinect sensor, bringing the first quality voice-control to Windows. The Xbox One, as you know, leans on the shared Windows core as part of its three operating systems.
Microsoft is betting half its new business model on selling hardware. If it can't build strong devices, the company is about 50 cents short of a buck. The feel of the talk was that Microsoft is confident in its hardware package. In 17 days, we'll start filling out its report card.