It's probably hasn't failed to pass you by, but Microsoft's trio of Xbox execs - J Allard, Robbie Bach and Peter Moore - are nothing if not enigmatic. You're pretty much guaranteed a wild ride everytime you sit down with one of them for an interview and our head-to-head with Xbox chief officer Robbie Bach at X05 last week was no different.
We probed Bach on the imminent 360 launch, the competition, Microsoft's past mistakes and the company's future plans - and you can read it all right here, right now. So off you pop.
There's not long to go now until Xbox 360's launch. How do you feel about things, about how things are shaping up?
Bach: Last night was the night we've been waiting for, for three years, and there is a tremendous sense of pride, I'd say, in where the project is right now. We still obviously have a ton of work to do, we have to get it onto the market, we have to market it successfully, get the games going, all those kinds of things. But there's certainly a sense of pride and a sense of confidence. We feel like we're in very good shape in where we are. I feel very good about what we've done so far. I do the comparison... if you go back a year and say "On October 5 this is where you'll be and this is where the project will be, how do you feel?", I would have said "awesome". I feel like we're in pretty good shape.
How important is it for you to have the head start against Sony and Microsoft this time around?
Bach: We think of the time advantage... It wasn't something we actually designed for. We originally said our design point was "We don't want to ship after Sony". Actually it'll be fine shipping at the same time, but I don't want to be after. Ultimately, the development team said "Well we have to pick a date because otherwise we won't know when we have to finish" and a development team without a finishing date doesn't work very well. We ultimately picked this date and Sony subsequently chose a different date. That said, I think being first is an opportunity for an advantage.
It doesn't guarantee anything, but it does mean that if we execute well and we have great games and we can get people excited, then it is a real opportunity because then it puts Sony on the defensive, they have to catch up, it helps our cost structure because we can drive down costs faster than they can because we're senior with more volume. You get this positive movement or momentum effect of more games coming to your platform because people are playing your games first. By the time they [Sony] launch we'll be producing second-generation games so the quality of our games compared to their games at launch is just going to be better. It all requires great execution but certainly the opportunity is there.
You're beating the competition to launch. What does that mean for you?
Bach: If we thought our time advantage over Sony was three or four weeks I'd be concerned about that, but we don't think it's three or four weeks and we know what our capacity ramp's going to look like - I think the ramp's going to break. On day one will we be able to meet demand across every market around the world? I think the answer's "probably not" given what I know about demand. And that is more a statement about demand than it is about supply. There's going to be a lot of people who want this product and I think we will have to work hard to keep it in stock. That said, we're going to ship new units every week, so whatever we have on day one, we're going to sell through that I think very quickly, and then there'll be stuff for the next week and stuff the week after that and stuff the week after that. Given the time advantage we have I think we'll be able to get plenty of product in the market to build something that's going to take Sony time to catch up on.