Xbox 360 Elite: Thinking Inside the Box

The advantage to being first to market is you have the market to yourself for awhile; the disadvantage is your product looks old first and people stop buying it. Xbox 360 sales have been slowing though they still seemed to be outselling the PS3 which is rumored to be getting a price cut shortly to boost sales.

The Deal

So far the response to this new product has been a bit tepid, the core advantages over the Xbox 360 are HDMI out (which is important if you have a current generation High definition TV or an HDMI switching receiver), a larger hard drive for downloading movies and shows (which there still aren’t that many of), and all the connecting cables (this isn’t trivial, good HDMI cables typically aren’t cheap and Sony doesn’t provide one for that very reason).

So for about $80 more than the price of the old fully loaded Xbox 360 you get about $220 USD ($180 for the drive separately and about $40 for the HDMI cable) and an easier set up if you can use HDMI. Of course if you didn’t really need the drive, and can’t use HDMI then that $80 for the color black which, if you’ve ever had one of these things painted isn’t a bad deal if you wanted one to go into your stereo cabinet.

Not a bad deal but not a great one either. If you were planning on getting an Xbox 360 this might be enough to get you to the store and buy one of these because the product is more forward looking in terms of configuration and a console has a service life of over 5 years so $80 USD is a small premium to pay for one that will probably be more likely to go that distance. But it isn’t a great deal and I think if they had just done a couple more things it could have been great.

What the Elite Should Have Been

A lot of folks are writing that it should have had a built in HD DVD drive. The problem with that is the market still hasn’t locked down on either format and until it does, repeating Sony’s Blu-Ray mistake with HD DVD would be foolish. Remember this thing will need to remain current for at least 3 years and in 3 years one of these two format will win or, and the odds favor this, neither will. If you were going to put in a high definition drive you’d need to put in one that ran both formats and that would push the player well into nose bleed territory with regard to price.

What they should have done, however, is put in a named high quality up-scaler like the Oppo DVD player we like so much, the Gateway 24” display, or the Dell 27” display. This would have allowed them to better position the product as one for watching DVDs and the second brand would have helped support the “Elite” brand.

The other thing is to make the product quieter. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 are too loud to really be considered as good movie players. For games this isn’t a problem but if you want the device to really be used in home theaters and as a set-top box for High Definition movies and music you need it to be quiet. Arguably it is quieter than the PS3, one of the benefits to having that huge brick of a Power Supply, but it should be silent and it isn’t.

Looking Ahead for the Xbox 360

Long term problems for the Xbox 360 are that the Wii is currently outselling it sharply and projections out of the Japanese market have the PS3 passing the Xbox 360 in 2008 (which seems a bit of a stretch given current sales rates.). In addition, some of Microsoft’s biggest partners are viewing the Xbox as a competing platform to the PC. This last could have broad implications for Microsoft’s competitiveness in other markets because these vendors typically lower their commitment to Microsoft’s products and actually look for competing offerings to sell under circumstances like this.

Microsoft, in my view, is making a fundamental mistake with the Xbox, they are playing the game as others would play it and not focusing on their own strengths. The one place this isn’t true is in game development where they are now using common tools and games are now starting to come out that will run on PCs and the Xbox with little additional work (but this doesn’t work for all games as the two platforms tend to favor different game types).

What the PC vendors would like is the ability to emulate the Xbox in high-end gaming and Media Center systems so they too can benefit from the infrastructure Microsoft has set up. This would both make new PCs more attractive and it would allow the OEMs to come up with configurations that better target users than the Elite, or any console, spin might. It might also be a better path to profitability for Microsoft which has bought its way into the gaming segment but found margins consistent with their traditional profitability numbers elusive.

Of course they could also spin the unit out and let it compete on its own against Sony and Nintendo, it just isn’t healthy enough to survive such a move yet and that points to the fact that the current path is probably not the right one for the unit.

Wrapping Up

I’ve always thought the Xbox should have been Black and think it looks better that way, but they had a chance for a hit and they fell short probably because they were focused too much on costs and not enough on requirements. In the end they can’t cost reduce their way to strong profitability but rather they need to change the game, and until they do that we’ll likely all be spending more time talking about what they should have done rather than what they did. Granted that’s kind of what we are doing with Sony but beating Sony in this way is probably not the road to success.

Overall, this market would be a lot more interesting if the high-end players, Sony and Microsoft, would do a little more “out of the box” thinking right now. It is really being defined by Nintendo who has done a better job in that regard with their physical controller and a vastly more attractive purchase price. I think it would be wise for Sony and Microsoft to pick up their game a bit if they want to make money here.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.


Swapping an iPhone for a BlackBerry made me appreciate the physical keyboard

BlackBerry is preparing to release the BlackBerry KeyTwo, a new phone with a physical keyboard. If you've never used one, and are a touchscreen typist, what would it be like to swap? We changed our iPhone to a BlackBerry KeyOne to find out.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.

Take control of your Xbox with these top-tier Xbox One gamepads

A number of different controllers are available on the Xbox One, from gamepads made by Microsoft, to third-party controllers loaded with special features. Here are the best you can buy.
Home Theater

From game consoles to high-grade spinners, these are the best Blu-ray players

Streaming may be popular, but the disc isn't dead yet! To get the very best picture and sound quality from your system, you need to be watching Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Here are the best Blu-ray players you can buy right now.
Home Theater

Here's how to preserve your precious VHS memories in a modern format

There's no reason you should have to lose those precious home videos just because VHS is a dying format. Here, we'll show you how to convert VHS tapes to a digital format, and save those memories forever.
Smart Home

4 reasons my love affair with Amazon is fizzling

I used to be an avid Amazon shopper. But some things have happened recently that’s made me question my loyalty to the retail giant. And to be honest, I’m not sure if I can trust them any longer.

iOS 12 is more evidence you should buy an iPhone, not an Android phone

The next version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 12, will be compatible with devices all the way back to 2013’s iPhone 5S. Android phones from the same era didn’t even see 2016’s software update. It’s further evidence you…

Can we get an apology? Two big MacBook fails that Apple should fix at WWDC

WWDC is just around the corner, but if you're hoping for a new MacBook Pro, don't hold your breath. Even though it'll probably only be a CPU bump, there are two significant problems with the current MacBook Pro that have been ignored for…
Smart Home

Is Apple showing up late to the smart home party, or just not coming?

Apple’s WWDC 2018 featured a lot of little announcements, but what was largely missing was news on the smart home front. Is Amazon planning on being late to the smart home party, or are they planning on attending at all?

5 obviously stupid iPhone problems that iOS 12 doesn’t even try to fix

At WWDC 2018, Apple took the wraps off the latest version of its iOS operating system. iOS 12 introduces quite a bit of changes -- visually and under the hood -- but there are still some basics that it doesn’t address. Here are a few of…
Health & Fitness

Ugh. I’m done with fitness trackers, and so is the world

In 2016, everyone was tracking their fitness. In 2017, people grew tired of it. In 2018, I’m done with it. I’m going tracker-free in my workouts from now on.

MacOS Mojave brings evening elegance to your Mac experience

The MacOS Mojave public beta is out now, with an official release coming later this fall. Chock-full of quality-of-life upgrades, we took it for a test drive to get a sneak peek at what you can expect from the next major update to MacOS…

Google might be planning a game console. That doesn’t mean it will happen

A new report suggests that Google is working on a game console, code-named Yeti. The reports about Google's game console are likely true, but that doesn't mean we will ever see it.
Home Theater

Why I still won’t wear wireless headphones

Wireless headphones promise liberation from cords, tangles, and snags, but there’s just one issue holding them back: battery life. And until manufacturers figure it out, sales numbers prove consumers aren’t yet biting.