Microsoft's New Toy Is a Preemptive Attack on Apple


A lot has been said about Microsoft's Xbox One since it was introduced on Tuesday. However, here's something that you probably haven't heard: Xbox One is a preemptive strike on Apple .

Think about it. Apple is working on a smart television. Shortly before his death, Steve Jobs told his biographer that he had cracked the problem with smart TVs. CEO Tim Cook told NBC's Brian Williams -- on primetime television -- that it's an area of "intense interest" at Apple.

Let's dream out loud. What would an Apple smart TV do?

Well, thanks to the popularity of Siri, it's a safe bet that there would be some degree of voice recognition. Xbox One has that. "Watch TV" switches to live TV. "Watch AMC" switches the channel. "What's on HBO?" pulls up the channel's listings guide.

Apple's device would also probably incorporate FaceTime video chat. Yes, Microsoft's all over that. The Xbox One allows for Skype video chats -- with multiple users at the same time.

Naturally, there would be some App Store integration with live content, but Xbox One is there already. You can pull up personalized fantasy stats during NBA and NFL games. You can be playing a Blu-ray disc and switch to a split screen to pull up Internet Explorer to figure out where you know that actress from through IMDB or pull up movie ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.

App Store integration naturally means playing games on your TV, and Xbox One naturally will have Apple beat on that front.

The clincher here is that Microsoft already has tens of millions of active Xbox Live users. They all won't hop on the Xbox One platform right away, but they will over time as prices get cheaper.

However, as expensive as the Xbox One will be, a full blown Apple HDTV will probably cost more than a Microsoft console with an existing flat screen. Now that we know that Microsoft will have its new toy out in time for this year's holiday shopping season, it's not as if Apple can get a head start here.

The more you think about it, the more you may start to realize that Apple may already be too late.

The only way Apple could realistically have a game-changer in an Xbox One world would be to revolutionize pay TV. Rolling out a piecemeal service in which consumers pay only for the channels that they watch -- or the content that they watch -- would more than justify Apple's inevitably high price.

The problem, unfortunately, is that cable networks have every reason to be uncooperative here. They stand to lose big money if Apple disrupts cable and satellite television providers. If Apple hasn't been able to get iRadio off the ground as negotiations with the music labels have been reportedly rough, how is Apple going to talk studios and content creators to disrupt a model that will save consumers money at their expense?

The Xbox One is bigger blow to Apple than you might think.

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