Microsoft has assembled a team to look into the possibilities of a new Microsoft Xbox 360 handheld video game console. Now, there has been new information leaked that the same Microsoft team may also be considering a new Microsoft handheld portable music player to rival Apple iTunes.
Microsoft, despite being primarily a software company, has a long history of designing and manufacturing its own hardware. A Microsoft portable music player would be a significant departure from the company’s current online music strategy. Currently, Microsoft promotes their Plays for Sure initiative, which allows different hardware manufacturers to create players that support a specific format of WMA-encoded, DRM-ed music that is supported by online stores such as Napster 2.0, MSN Music, and the Wal-Mart online music store.
But the rumors don’t end there. The new “mystery device” could be a game player as well:
“It can’t just be our version of the iPod,” says Peter Moore, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division. “I think the Xbox brand is an opportunity [to market the device]”
Could Microsoft be aiming to take Nintendo and Sony head-on in the portable gaming arena as well? It seems unlikely that the portable gaming market could support another competitor, but that’s what industry experts said about the game console market before the original Xbox was released. However, unseating the iPod, the GameBoy, and the PSP all at the same time seems like a nearly impossible challenge. Is Microsoft up to the task? I think their history with mice, keyboards and joysticks shows that they can design attractive yet functional products, so it is at least worth a shot.