Microsoft should have launched the “Xphone”, a game-oriented smartphone that would’ve preceded the original iPhone by almost three years - or at least that’s what a former Xbox head believes now.
Robbie Bach, a previous leader of Microsoft's Xbox division, was there when the original Xbox was launched. He was also there when the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s highly successful follow-up, hit the markets. That’s why it’s interesting to hear him talk about his regrets surround the “Xphone”.
In a recent interview with Polygon, Bach explained that his team was always looking at handheld consoles as a possible extension of the Xbox platform. According to him the idea of an “Xboy”, a portable handheld, was often on the table, but he and the rest of the management team always shut it down and steered development efforts towards getting the Xbox console right.
We just looked at this as a management team and said, 'If we try to do this we'll hurt Xbox a lot. Xbox is the strategic thing that must get done. It must get done right.' It was my first really hardcore lesson in saying less is more. Forcing the team to focus and say, 'We've got to get this right first.
In hindsight, if the team had had the vision to look into mobile phones, touch screens and all of that technology that quickly became commonplace after the iPhone launched, perhaps things would’ve played out very differently in the markets.
The irony is, the thing we missed about that was it should have been a phone. What we should have done was the Xphone, not the Xboy. I don't think it would have been an obvious thought at the time. This was still pretty early. This is three years before iPhone. But if we'd been prescient enough to start looking at phone technology, looking at touch screens — if we managed to think that all through, we might have said, 'Oh gosh, we should do an Xphone.' That could have been ... who knows? Hindsight is 20/20.
It’s always interesting to consider what could’ve been. It’s also worth pointing out that the concept of a mobile Xbox device has come up again and again inside of Microsoft. Even as recently as a couple of years ago rumors pointed towards a Surface Xbox tablet.
Alas, none of these possible projects seems to have panned out, though considering Microsoft’s work on streaming technology, Xbox games may soon be available on any device, be it mobile or not.