This is my prediction for a possible Microsoft handheld device.
Much like my “reasonable” DS redesign which turned out to be pretty close, I tried to concentrate on style and features that would meet Microsoft’s objectives and also on what was possible and financially viable within the next year or so.
Clearly the things that they would want are:
- Style: Complements the Xbox360 and reinforces the Xbox brand.
- Functionality: Integrates with the “digital home”. Connects to Xbox Live.
- Competition: Reduce the risk to competitor innovation.
Here’s a quick mockup just to get things started:
More images and in-depth discussion after the jump.
Update: Look out for a more detailed mockup within the next week!
Update: Added notes on interface.
Update: Added related links.
First an explaination of the style. Since Microsoft has spent a fair amount of time and money building the Xbox brand and promoting the Xbox360 aesthetic, I’m confident they would want to go for something familiar. Maybe even advertise it with something cheesy like:
- Instantly familiar. A world of new possibilities.
Since the “inhale” concept of the Xbox360 doesn’t really meet the functional requirements of a handheld (quite an odd shape to hold), I focussed on the other iconic element, the Xbox360 controller. After making it less curved and more portable device shaped, I added a faceplate to complement the “personalise” aspect of the Xbox360 branding.
Here is the front view when the unit is closed:
The slight curve continues around the back and should make it fairly comfortable to carry in the pocket of a pair of pants.
Features and Capabilities
Onto the hardware features and capabilities, particularly in relation to Microsoft’s other products.
- Large internal data storage.
- Compatible with Xbox360 headset.
- Video camera.
- Inertial sensor (tilt and motion).
- Stream media via wireless connection from your Xbox360 or Windows Media Centre enabled PC.
- Engage in online audio and video chat via Xbox Live or MSN.
- Download XboxMove games from Xbox Live.
- Use the XboxMove as a standard or special wireless controller for Xbox360 or Windows.
The reasoning behind most of these features is just to support the desired capabilities. The inertial sensor is to combat the possibility of new gameplay mechanics from Nintendo’s Revolution controller raising demand in the marketplace for similar technology.
There will be an Xbox Move section on Xbox Live Marketplace where people can download Xbox Move games. As a controller for the Xbox360, there will also be XboxMove enabled games that make use of the screen, video camera, microphone, or inertial sensor. With video chat becoming more common (with video Skype), the XboxMove could be used for video chat on Xbox Live or MSN.
Here’s a look at the unit when it is opened:
Unlike the Xbox360 controller, the controls need to be recessed so that the screen can fold down properly. There are two small cushioning pads near the base so that the screen doesn’t get damaged.
The two wildcards with the XboxMove are the inertial sensor and the video streaming capabilities. The inertial sensor could be used as a revolution controller like input device with the Xbox360. When the screen is flipped over and down (as in the diagram below) the inertial sensor and four trigger buttons could be used as input for a handheld game. This functionality obviously lends itself to a port of Super Monkey Ball (where tilting the unit would control the gameworld tilt).
The XboxMove is designed to sit at a slight angle facing upwards from vertical so that when the screen is flipped over, the XboxMove can be placed on a table and used for watching videos or video chat. It could also be used as a eye-toy like input device (with it’s own screen for visual feedback without crowding the television).
Here’s a look at the unit when the screen is flipped over:
Note: The circles on either side of the screen just mark where the speakers are. They aren’t analog sticks or anything like that!
The interface will mirror the Xbox360 “blades” interface. When the unit is open, the same controls could be used to drive the interface. However, something new would be required for when the screen is flipped over (since the buttons are covered). A neat input technique would be to use the shoulder buttons to switch between blades and the tilt functionality and shoulder triggers to select menu elements.
Now onto the clinchers. There will be no storage media. Unlike Sony who have vested interest in a media format, I don’t think Microsoft wants a future in restrictive media storage (as evident in their HD-DVD versus BluRay battles) and would prefer software based digital rights management. After all, they’ll provide the software for that.
Much like the iPod promotes internal storage and download from a media provision service (iTunes), the XboxMove would include a fairly large amount of flash memory (let’s say 2GB ) and require connection to an Xbox360 or Windows PC to download games via Xbox Live. Installing software in this manner is fairly normal for PDAs and would increase consumer reliance on other Microsoft products.
A Bug in Microsoft’s Ear: A Business Week online article with quotes from Peter Moore regarding a possible Microsoft portable media device.
Finally, about the name. XboxMove emphasises the tilt and motion control and also communicates something dynamic. It would be a good contrast to the rather bland and functional names of competing devices, the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS.
Plus, they will use the slogan:
- Prepare to be moved.
So, what does everyone else think?