Much of the analysis of Microsoft in the era of outgoing chief executive Steve Ballmer comes with one caveat: “except for the Xbox.”
For Microsoft, the Xbox has been a delightful anomaly. It’s successful hardware manufactured in-house. It’s recovered from missteps without missing a beat. And it represents one of the key times when Microsoft has been in the right place, at the right time, with the right targets in mind.
Microsoft’s Xbox first came onto the scene 12 years ago, at a time when Sony and its PlayStation 2 seemed unstoppable. And there was no more unlikely player in the gaming world — even then Microsoft seemed like a lumbering giant that wouldn’t be able to get a foothold in a new market, let alone one as cool as gaming.
Much of the console’s success, said Forrester analyst James McQuivey, can be attributed to the fact that the Xbox team was more or less left to run as a startup within Microsoft.