Microsoft’s missed opportunity with the Xbox One S and Xbox One X

Amazon Echo Speaker
Image Courtesy of Amazon

Microsoft announced they would be adding support for Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa to the Xbox One alongside Cortana and the feature is now available for users in the alpha ring of Microsoft’s Xbox Insider Program. It works the same as Cortana. You can ask Alexa to open games, apps, take screenshots, and even control whatever media you have playing. If you have an Amazon Echo device or another smart speaker such as a Sonos (which supports Alexa) you can also ask the voice assistant to turn your Xbox on or off. The one big catch is if you don’t have an Alexa enabled smart speaker somewhere in your home, you can only use this feature when you have a headset plugged into your Xbox One controller.

Microsoft could’ve easily fixed this issue in 2016 when they released the Xbox One S just by simply putting a microphone in it. It could’ve gone anywhere really, and it wouldn’t have cost much to add. You might be wondering why Microsoft would do this in 2016 when obviously they didn’t announce at the time that they would be adding support for Alexa. Here are two crucial things Microsoft did know in 2016 and in 2015, when they were likely designing the Xbox One S.

The first is the death of the Kinect. Microsoft absolutely knew the death of their ill-fated motion tracker was coming. Microsoft knew going forward the only way to use the one official microphone accessory for the Xbox that wasn’t a gaming headset would be to use an awful USB adapter that was way too clunky for anyone to reasonably want to use. Yes, most people found the Kinect to be a gimmick and didn’t find it particularly useful, but an overwhelming amount of users who reviewed the original Xbox One that came with the Kinect loved the voice commands. Yes, it could be finicky at times but what voice assistant isn’t, even Google Assistant and Siri can still struggle at times. Microsoft knew they were taking away the easiest access to those voice commands, and they did nothing to replace it, which they easily could’ve done by putting a mic on the console, or even adding backwards compatible controllers to the original Xbox One.

The second thing Microsoft should have known in 2015 was that they were upgrading their voice commands with Cortana – their take on Google Assistant and Siri. Microsoft wanted Cortana to be big, which is why they brought Cortana to Windows 10, Windows Phone, and it’s why they were bringing Cortana to Xbox. Xbox was probably Cortana’s best chance to shine, the game series which her name was taken from had been there on Xbox from the very beginning. Halo fans would have loved to call her up as their assistant so that they could feel like the iconic Master Chief. However, no one wants to wear a headset constantly just to use a voice assistant when we’ve become so used to our phones, tablets, laptops, and even smartwatches having microphones built in.

Not only would adding a microphone to Xbox One S and Xbox One X have given Cortana the chance it deserves to flourish that was so desperately needed, but now with Alexa support, it would give them a fighting place in the living room against Amazon’s own Fire TV devices, Google’s Android TV platform, and the Apple TV with Siri. People might even choose to just use their Xbox as their voice assistant in the living room and then not buy another Echo device or other smart speaker for that room. Why have an Amazon Echo in each room when you can have an Echo in your kitchen and your Alexa-enabled Xbox in the living room? Wasn’t it Microsoft’s dream from the beginning of this console generation to have an always on and always connected Xbox? This could’ve been a great reason for people to want an Xbox that’s always online and connected. What do you think, should Microsoft add a microphone to the next generation of Xbox? Let us know what you think down below!

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