The latest hot pre-E3 rumors are doing the rounds and one in particular suggests we could see an interesting new piece of hardware from Microsoft. Reported by Brad Sams on his podcast, The Sams Report, he suggested some form of streaming stick is in the pipeline.
Microsoft made a strong play for the living room with the Xbox One, but games consoles aren't necessarily what everyone wants there. That and the Xbox One is a pretty enormous thing to have in your entertainment center.
Microsoft has a content ecosystem of its own, while also allowing access to several others through the Xbox One, and previously the Xbox 360. There's no reason there shouldn't be a dedicated streaming device to plug the gap between nothing and the Xbox One. So long as it's done right.
The first thing it would have to do is make sure the major services people care about are covered. That means the likes of Netflix and Hulu, and a big boon would be Amazon Prime. This is the one big gap on Google's Chromecast platform, and while Amazon would most likely prefer to sell you a Fire Stick, a partnership between the two would be huge.
The ace could turn out to be Windows 10
Content shouldn't necessarily be a barrier to purchasing a product. If Microsoft were to go down the Fire Stick and Roku route, having app partnerships in place will be crucial. If it were to adopt a Chromecast-like set up, opening a cross-platform API for app developers to embrace would be essential. When it comes to streaming online music and video, Miracast just isn't enough.
Then there's the price. A rumored $100 is a little troublesome. Chromecast is around a third of that, as is the Fire Stick. So either it has to be cheaper, or it has to have an ace up its sleeve.
That ace could turn out to be Windows 10. With an abundance of Stick PCs already out there, it's already possible to have a full Windows computer hanging from an HDMI port on your television. It'd be almost impossible for Microsoft not to run Windows 10 on any such device.
Which opens up a few big possibilities, including UWP apps, Xbox One game streaming and Continuum. UWP apps are already hitting the Xbox One later this year, and so the TV is already a target for those interested.
Game streaming is already built into Windows 10, so that part wouldn't be much of an issue you'd think. It still relies on good quality network speeds, though, so that would then lead to hardware, which would lead to a higher price. But honestly, that'd be worth it. Valve has the Steam Link, why shouldn't Microsoft have an Xbox Link?
Any form of wireless stick you'd also assume would have support to use Continuum from Windows 10 Mobile.. Continuum is a differentiating feature for Microsoft, so get it out there in front of as many eyeballs as possible.
Xbox is a strong brand with high satisfaction and loyalty
Ultimately all of this is rumor and "what if" until Phil Spencer takes the stage in LA in early June. Microsoft still falls a little short in the living room, with the Xbox One not fitting into that space as well as they might have expected.
There's absolutely room to have a small, fairly inexpensive streaming stick with the Xbox logo on it, access to Microsoft's content ecosystems and Windows 10 apps and possibly more. Sony, even, has the PSTV which isn't exactly the same idea, but works as an accessory to the main PlayStation ecosystem.
Xbox is a strong brand with high levels of customer satisfaction and ultimately, loyalty. It'd make a lot of sense to leverage it on a product like this.
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