Microsoft's Trojan Horse: The Xbox in Your Living Room

Windows 8 Could Allow Consumers to Use All Their Screen Devices in a Consistent Way, Through the Home Command Center

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The ancient story goes that after nearly a decade of losses, Greek soldiers outside the gates of Troy concocted a plan to enter the city through a giant wooden horse unwittingly brought in by the very Trojans they had been fighting. The Trojans, believing the horse to be a trophy of sorts, welcomed it in and ultimately met their demise as a result.

In our time, high technology's once undisputed ruler, Microsoft, is under severe attack, a result of its own missteps and spear tips pressed forward from challengers of all shapes and sizes. From Google and Apple come challenges in the device and mobility spaces. Scrappy, new-age thinking from the likes of Salesforce threatens the core of how Microsoft has operated its software business. The giant seems unable to stem the consumer tide.

But the company may have found its Trojan horse. Windows 8 is a complete re-creation of how consumers can function across all devices in the iPad age: PC, mobile, tablet and console. It reimagines this functionality with a consistency not seen before. The user can engage with each device in the exact same manner. Whereas Google taught us to search and Apple taught us to swipe, pinch and tilt, Microsoft is prepared to teach the value of continuity across all screens. And the screen that still holds the most sway, at least for the moment is the television. Therein lies Microsoft's Trojan horse: the Xbox.

For most of the last decade Microsoft's Xbox has nestled its way into the homes of millions of consumers, first as a gaming console and more recently as a command center for personal home entertainment. The expansion has been sizable, to the point where some have begun to abandon traditional cable and satellite systems for a web-based Microsoft-enabled solution. Now with the Windows 8 experience matching more closely the Xbox experience, with a unified operating system giving consumers one constant interface and a single login, one has to wonder if Microsoft isn't ready to seize the moment. People will debate the new Surface device vs the iPad and Win8 phones vs Android and iPhones, but that 's missing the point, I think.

There is no shortage of research coming to bear about second screen. Nielsen's most recent findings show that 40% of tablet/smartphone users are simultaneously accessing that device while watching TV. What's in debate is what is first and what is second for people these days. Is it mobile + another device or TV + tablet or another combination? Regardless of the combination, it is clear that multiples, not stand alones, will matter more and more. And when you can start provide consistency of experience tied to the home command center you gain an advantage. For consumers this is a boon to productivity and convenience, as devices all act the same, share the same or enhanced content and make common tasks such as searching unified to enable data retention and improved efficiency.

It does not seem hard to imagine a future where Microsoft bundles a Xbox and Surface together for holiday purchase. The devices can function as stand alones, but the long-term goal is about pairing and ubiquity of experience. While others have established dominance in a specific device or platform space, we have to wonder if, as in the Battle of Troy, the beleaguered Microsoft outsiders are about to reclaim their place atop the heap.
Chris Copeland is Chief Executive Officer, GroupM Next.
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